While many travel agents might view river cruises as a product to market to older travelers and families, an increasing number of Millennials are growing interested in cruising, and suppliers and agents are beginning to market more actively to them.
The Travel Corporation, for example, announced last year that it will be launching its Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, targeting travelers 18-40, through its new U By Uniworld. In a statement, Travel Corporation CEO Brett Tollman said the new sailings are aimed at defining “the river-exploring experience for an entirely new demographic.”
Uniworld’s move follows the increasingly strong interest Millennials have shown in cruising over the past three years.
Steve Cohen, vice president of insights at MMGY Global, said its research found that 36% of all Millennials are interested in taking a river cruise during the next 12 months. Broken down into sub-groups, MMGY found that 27% of younger Millennials (18-27) are interested in taking a river cruise during the next 12 months, and 40% of older Millennials (28-38) are.
“I feel like everyone is looking for something new and different,” said Deborah Director, owner of her own Smartflyer affiliate agency in Boca Raton, FL, “and the river market is a new way to offer something different. Millennials like to do things their own way. Accessing a city from a river boat is more intimate.”
Director said Millennials have their own unique spin on river cruising; they want to travel in large groups. “They want to privatize the ships with their own groups, to personalize their experiences. Smaller venues like a river cruise can actually customize their experiences.”
So what are Millennials looking for on cruises that is different from the rest of the traveling population? The most significant differences are nightlife and fine dining; MMGY found that 78% of Millennials feel that nightlife is a key influencer of their choice of a river cruise, while 70% point to musical/comedy shows.
The closest another demographic group comes to matching them is 67% of Gen Xers who are influenced by nightlife options, and 65% who want musical/comedy shows.
With its new 2018 itineraries, Uniworld will be featuring late-night shore excursions so Millennials can take advantage of the local nightlife and later breakfast hours for those sleeping late the next morning. According to MMGY, 83% of Millennials are interested in a Mediterranean or European cruise itinerary.
Cohen noted that of the 43% of Millennials who took at least one overnight trip to a casino/gaming establishment during the past 12 months, 31% did so on a casino river cruise.
“It doesn't surprise me that a lot of Millennials are taking cruises to gamble. You’ve got drinking, gambling, and no risk of a DUI. Sounds like a fun Millennial weekend to me,” he said.
In support of its announcement, Uniworld is using social media to promote U by Uniworld, using the hashtag #AllAboutU on Twitter, Instagram and the Uniworld Facebook page.
The campaign developed some initial excitement on the web. Kristin Bartkus Shy, a travel adviser at CTA Travel in Cerritos, CA, posted, “I've always wanted to go on a #rivercruise, but was afraid that I would be much younger than most of the people on the boat. Well, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, I am very excited for the upcoming U by Uniworld rivercruise for the #millenial #AllAboutU.”
“River cruising is now open to all generations!” said Travel With Nikki Miller, Portage, MI.
Uniworld told Travel Market Report that the campaign was launched to garner suggestions and encourage conversation regarding “all aspects of the U by Uniworld experience, from the itineraries and excursions, to the amenities, dining, music and more. Uniworld believes that an open dialogue with those who are most likely to find the U by Uniworld concept compelling, inclusive of all social media platforms, will provide the most authentic and exciting product.”
Uniworld would not comment on any Millennial-specific advertising scheduled for this year. When asked by TMR, it said that “being the first travel company to launch a river cruise line designed specifically for this new generation of river cruisers is a big deal. We plan to generate a lot of awareness and excitement about U by Uniworld with Millennials this year.”
For more on this topic, please join TMR’s “Selling the Cruise: What’s New in Sales and Marketing” panel on June 14, at our annual TravelMarketPlace show in Toronto.