Andy Harmer, CLIA senior vice-president membership, and director CLIA UK & Ireland
Cruising has broken through the glass ceiling, it’s no longer a specialist holiday, it’s moving into becoming a mainstream holiday choice.
However, there is still work to do from the global industry to overcome misconceptions about a holiday at sea or on the river, but we are definitely moving in the right direction.
Globally, there were 26.7 million cruise passengers last year, up 6.3 per cent on 2016, and just under two million of these were from the UK & Ireland. An incredible number considering the small base it started from just fifty years ago. With $60billion invested globally in new ship orders, the time is now to encourage first time cruisers to set sail, as there has never been more choice.
Putting innovation at the heart of efforts to entice more people to cruise for the first time is crucial; as its innovation in both the onboard experience and the land-based excursions available, which will draw newcomers in.
With $60billion invested globally in new ship orders, the time is now to encourage first time cruisers to set sail
It’s about the overall holiday experience, for cruise customers, both potential and current. Conversations are now moving away from the physical narrative of a cruise, i.e. sailing across the Atlantic for seven days; and more towards what happens onboard and during the sailing.
When listening to today’s customers talk about cruises you’re more likely to first hear incredible experiential references first, such as visits to private Caribbean islands, bars staffed by robots, food cooked in the restaurant of a celebrity chef, visiting relatively unknown and exotic climes, and a raft of adventurous adrenaline-filled sports such as ziplining. All non-traditional cruise expectations and all largely experiences you’re unlikely to get with a land-based holiday.
In the UK, the average age of the cruise customer is 56, however for some lines this is at least a decade younger as more and more families set sail. Much is being done by cruise lines, both ocean and river, to lower the average cruise age. However there needs to be a careful balance struck between attracting new younger cruisers and those in their mid-50s and older; after all they have the time, inclination and money to cruise, more than most other demographics.
Millennials are starting to cruise, for them the most important aspects are value for money – not necessarily a low price point, plus having a great sociable experience, both onboard the ship and on land. This is set to be the biggest and most affluent generation in years to come, and they will cruise. We just need to work out how best to talk to them.
Travel agents sell the vast majority of cruises in the UK, as customers rely on them for expert knowledge and guidance through a sometimes overwhelming booking process with myriad cabin types to choose from, plus hundreds of enticing itineraries and exciting ships.
So the time is definitely now, we need to pull together to show the British holidaymaker just how incredible a cruise is, no matter what your age