The cruise industry is on a spending spree, investing more than $25 billion on 55 new ships over the next five years. And that’s good news for travel agents, who expect much of the ensuing business to trickle down into their ledgers.
A study of 700 North American travel agents released this week by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) found they expect the biggest increase in business to come from ocean cruising (36.3%) and river cruising (28.2%) this year, followed by all-inclusive resorts (22.6%) and land-based vacations (4.8%).
“It really is a positive outlook for the cruise industry, which is no surprise to us,” CLIA senior vice president of strategic marketing and communications Lorri Christou told TMR. “Our agents reinforced what we have been saying. Over the past year, 5 years, 10 years, the growth has been phenomenal…Not only are people coming back, but folks who have never cruised are coming as well.”
One agent in four (43%) expects a 10% or larger increase in cruise volume; 21.5% expect between 6% and 10%; and 19% expect between 1% and 5%. Just 4.1% expect cruise sales to decrease.
Despite the rise of luxury and specialized cruising, agents still expect large ocean and river cruise ships to further dominate the market in 2016, with 71% and 66%, respectively, saying they expect ocean and river cruising to see “significant growth” this year.
Domestic growth outweighs international
Though the respondents do expect growth in every segment, they predict that domestic and Caribbean ports will increase at a higher rate than international ones.
The heaviest growth will be in the Americas, with 73% expecting growth in Alaska, 52% in the Caribbean, and 42% in Canada and New England.
The survey’s respondents were exclusively North American travel agents and all CLIA members, which might have skewed the destination results, Christou acknowledged.
There is also the threat of terrorism and the Zika virus, plus the expected passport crisis, that might be keeping travelers closer to home this year.
One agent who took the survey, Aiko Yao Lim, said he is seeing his customers gravitate toward ports they can get to the most easily. “We’ve been seeing more customers wanting to embark on cruises in their own city and not want to take air,” he said.
As for whether or not the report demonstrates that cruisers are coming back to agents, Christou said it doesn’t—because they’ve never left.
“The reality is that travel agents have always been a key distribution channel for the cruise industry,” she said. “In the United States, our data show that 70% of cruises are booked through a travel agent. They’ve always been an important aspect of our success.”
CLIA will be doing the report on the quarterly basis. If you are a travel agent and are interested in being included in the report, go to the CLIA website and sign up.