Bookings from travel advisors across Carnival Corp. brands are at the highest they've been in several years, said president and CEO Josh Weinstein during the company's Q1 2023 earnings call on March 27. It was a message he reinforced during a one-on-one call with Travel Market Report at this week's Seatrade Cruise Global conference.
"The really pleasing results that we saw, especially over the wave season, was that the trade really did come roaring back and they really brought significant volume back into the mix, which is great to see," said.
He added that with several of the Carnival Corp. brands, bookings from the trade exceeded 2019 levels.
While he would not comment on which brands those better volumes came from, he did attribute some of the volume to new-to-cruise, something he said Carnival Corp. depends on the trade for.
"The trade plays an instrumental part in helping us cast that net wider and get more folks who have never cruised to start thinking about cruising… where the trade is truly a game changer for us is we need to constantly replenish year to year with folks who have never cruised before and the trade is really good at helping make those conversions.
Catching Up to Do
When asked how bookings are looking, Weinstein said the forward momentum continues.
"It's all good things and, candidly, we've got catching up to do because we didn't get nearly as much benefit as the world restarted back in 2021 into some of last year… You've got to remember that up until the middle of August, we were still on a completely uneven playing field from land-based alternatives because of the protocols that we had to have in place because of the CDC."
It was only after the CDC protocols were lifted that Weinstein said the cruise industry could compete with land-based alternatives on an apples-to-apples basis.
Communicating the Value Proposition
While the uneven playing field may have contributed to the large gap in pricing between cruising and land-based vacation alternatives (which has grown larger over the past threes), he said he believes it has more to do with people not understanding the value proposition of cruising – and not just from a money standpoint.
"The amount of people in this country and around the world that have never cruised before is an enormous number. Most of those people have taken a vacation before. They don't need to have explained how does a hotel work, what's the value etc. But for a cruise, if you don't know, you don't know."
The cruise industry, he said, needs to do a better job of educating people and championing the value that there is for cruising.
As an example, Weinstein mentioned that he went for a business trip to California in September where he stayed at a brand named hotel. In the room was a letter stating that his room would not be serviced for the extent of his four-day stay.
"I didn't even think twice about. I was like, well that's the world we're living in right now when it comes to hotels. But when you think about what a cruise experience was and still continues to be, that's not even a consideration. Of course, we're going to do that. That's part of the value proposition."
Weinstein emphasized that the trade is already a huge amplifier of that message.