As the cruise industry’s rebound begins to pick up steam, it is going to be more important than ever for travel advisors to know what drives potential first-time cruisers to opt for or against booking their first cruise vacation.
And while some trends have been undoubtedly changed because of COVID-19, the biggest questions coming from first-time cruise guests pre-COVID-19 all revolved around pricing.
That is according to Travel Market Report’s debut Outlook on New to Cruise, an inside look at the market for first-time cruisers from the perspective of the front-line sellers, the travel advisors.
The report, sponsored by Royal Caribbean Group, which includes Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, and Silversea, is now live on TMR here.
The survey queried 814 travel advisors located in North America in the months prior to the emergence of COVID-19, the majority of which were either independent contractors or agency employees.
Among other trends, the survey found that the most frequent questions asked by first-time cruisers before COVID-19 all have to do with the price, which is going to be important for advisors to know as they gauge how clients now want to travel.
The most frequent question, according to the survey, was “What is included in the total price?” at 86%. That was followed by “Are there any additional charges?” at 70% and “What is the cost of alcohol?” at 59%.
In fact, the only non-price-related query in the top five most frequent questions from first-time cruisers was “Do they need a passport” at 58%, the fourth most popular question.
Many advisors speaking to TMR about converting clients into cruise clients said the same thing.
“Most first-timers have zero clue about what is included or not. It is a very different experience and takes at least an hour to explain,” one advisor said.
“Some do think alcohol is included, but I clarify that early in the sales process,” another added.
“Most people are looking for more of a true ‘all-inclusive’ experience, so they can do something different other than a vacation at a real all-inclusive property. They want a vacation from thinking about their spending and worrying about costs, etc. They want it taken care of ahead of time. Cruises would be even more popular if they truly were all-inclusive like that of their competing resort suppliers,” another advisor said.
The results show an opportunity for both travel advisors and cruise lines to speak to consumers about the benefits of cruising. While not every cruise line offers an all-inclusive experience depending on the market they serve, there has a trend of cruise lines moving towards the all-inclusive model.
Celebrity Cruises, for example, made the move to an all-inclusive fare in November 2020.