Travel agents’ cruise sales are tracking ahead of last year, according to a recent survey conducted by the Cruise Lines International Association.
More than half of cruise-selling agents already are selling more sea vacations this year than in 2011. Nearly two-thirds, 64%, of respondents expect booking volume this year to increase over 2011.
More than half, 58%, see consumer confidence growing overall.
The survey of more than 300 CLIA-member agents was conducted online in early July.
Anticipates more growth
“I would expect this year to continue to show growth,” Bob Sharak, executive vice president of marketing and distribution for CLIA, told Travel Market Report. “There are 7% to 8% more beds this year, and the industry will continue to grow if this is the tenor.
“At the end of the day, people have been pent-up and want to buy,” said Sharak.
Top destinations, products
The Caribbean, Alaska and the Mediterranean are, respectively, the top cruise destinations for 2013, agents said.
They are followed by: Hawaii, Europe/Scandinavia, Australia/New Zealand, trans-Panama Canal, Asia, Bahamas, Mexico, transatlantic and the Middle East.
River cruises, contemporary cruises, shorter cruises, premium cruises and luxury cruise were cited as segments with the strongest sales potential.
Ahead of last year
Important takeaways from the survey include major increases in anticipated bookings for the remainder of 2012.
Halfway through 2012, 52% of agents said they were ahead of last year in terms of cruises sold. Another 25% said cruise sales are on a par with 2011.
Most agents also expected significant growth in 2012 bookings overall.
About one-quarter of respondents expected 2012 bookings to grow by 11% to 15%. A healthy 15% of agents predicted gains of more than 25%.
Just under 24% of agents forecast a modest increase of 10% or less.
‘Ride the optimism’
“The bottom line is that CLIA agents are pretty optimistic about cruise sales compared to last year,” Sharak said.
His advice for agents? “Ride the optimism.”
Also: “Keep trying to sell up; it is to your advantage.”
Who’s buying & why
Good value offered by cruises was the top factor motivating consumers to book, agents said. Next in importance were love of cruises and price, they said.
First-time cruisers, families and couples without children represented the strongest growth categories so far in 2012.
Top consumer trends in cruising include multigenerational groups and families; cruises ships perceived as the vacation destination; off-the-beaten track itineraries, and short cruises.
Interest in cruising is also stimulated by new itineraries and destinations, new ships, longer stays in ports, family and children’s programs and innovative shore excursions, among other factors, agents said.
The CLIA survey provides a more balanced look at agent sentiment than a survey that was conducted earlier this year – one week before the Costa Concordia disaster in Italy, Sharak said.