Travel agents are bullish about business in 2016, with 83 percent of cruise sellers expecting sales to increase during the coming year, a survey by the cruise marketing group Cruise Lines International Association has found.
The report, which was conducted at the end of 2015, is the first in what will be a quarterly research study from CLIA, designed to forecast trends in the cruise industry. Overall, CLIA projects that 24 million passengers will take a cruise in 2016, up from 23 million last year. The lion’s share of passengers hails from North America.
In the latest survey, travel agents say that more multigenerational families are embarking on cruises – a trend that benefits the cruise industry long term as the cruise habit will become ingrained in younger consumers. This trend also bodes well for increasing first-time cruisers.
“As the cruise industry continues to grow, the travel agent community is invaluable in helping us understand the strength of the business and perceptions in the marketplace,” says Cindy D’Aoust, Acting CEO of CLIA. “Our travel agent community is on the frontline with consumers which is why we felt it was important for us to create this quarterly Travel Agent Cruise Industry Outlook to aggregate and track their insights.”
According to the report, travel agents’ expectations of industry
growth are consistent with the industry’s own expectations. Between now and 2020, cruise lines are investing more than $25 billion to build 55 more ships. In 2016 alone, the industry will see 27 new builds of river and ocean ships.
If, as travel agents seem to believe, the outlook for cruising is good, that demand should be met by a new generation of ships that will be introduced in the next four years.
Other notable findings:
* Today’s average cruiser is only 49 years old, employed full-time, married and has an income of $114,000.
* River cruises and cruises on large ships are generating the biggest growth with 71 percent and 66 percent, respectively, of agents reporting growth in these two areas.
* Travel agents are reporting that the cost and hassle of international flying is becoming a barrier to many long-distance cruise destinations. Consequently, domestic and local cruises are experiencing the most significant growth so far this year. Even though Alaskan cruises are one of the smallest segments of the industry, accounting for only 4 percent of total deployment, more travel agents (73 percent) are seeing increases in Alaskan cruises versus any other region. The largest region for cruising, with a third of all cruises – the Caribbean – seems poised for even more growth in 2016, with 52 percent of travel agents seeing growth there. Another local region with strong growth in 2016 is Canada and New England, with 42 percent of travel agents expecting growth.
* Vacationers are booking their cruises farther in advance. Forty-seven percent say that customers are increasingly booking nine to 12 months ahead and 42 percent say more cruises are being booked six to nine months in advance. Last-minute bookers seem to be on the wane.