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Key 2017 New Cruise Trends

post by Sharon at February 25, 2017
Host Agency executives weigh in on trends that will help you grow your cruise sales

As we enter 2017, the cruise industry will introduce new ships and onboard amenities. But there are other trends you should watch closely in order to help you increase your cruise sales in the New Year.

“The coming year will offer many great opportunities for independent travel professionals,” said Jackie Friedman, president of Nexion. “Just like in 2016, cruising will continue to be a popular vacation element for numerous demographics: families, multigenerational travelers, honeymooners, retirees, and more. And the cruise industry is very aware of this – various cruise lines have new ships that will embark in 2017, or have completed extensive refurbishment on existing ships. Cruise ships themselves are becoming the destination, with better staterooms, a variety of dining options, amazing entertainment and a renewed focus on cruise lines’ private islands.”

New ship introductions generate a flurry of publicity, and agents should try to capitalize on that to spur new interest in cruising.

“We enter 2017 with excitement and great energy in the year after the arrival of new cruise ships such as Carnival Vista and Holland America Line’s Koningsdam,” said Drew Daly, general manager of network engagement and performance for Dream Vacations, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. “With the arrival of new ships into the marketplace, travel agents should continue to capitalize on the media attention and promote cruising to everyone. When new ships come out, the demand for cruising increases and ultimately business grows.”.

A RISE IN LUXURY

“A greater focus on luxury cruising. This customer segment is especially discerning and demands a different, more personalized experience.” Consumers are becoming more informed about the luxury products available to them when traveling, and 2017 promises to deliver a strong push to luxury-type travel experiences. People of all ages are looking for a more enriching travel experience, which is prime for travel agents to ensure they are promoting this product and experience to their customers. Travel agents should look around their communities for where the luxury opportunity exists – wine clubs, golf clubs and yacht clubs are a few ideas to help an agent get started.”

Many cruise passengers are put off by what they see as nickel-and-diming on some lines and want drinks, specialty dining and gratuities included in the upfront fare. “A more inclusive product is something that consumers want as they do not want to have to worry about any add-ons when they are traveling”.

INCLUSIVE PROMOTIONS

Toward that end, more and more cruise lines offer promotional packages that bundle drinks, dining and more into the upfront price. “To differentiate themselves and convince travel professionals to sell their product, cruise lines are offering more extras,” Friedman said. “Instead of lowering prices, they are adding value by packaging more inclusive options into the cruise fare, like beverage packages, specialty dining and shore excursions.”

Consumers responded, and agents were pleased because commissions are based on the cost of those bundled extra amenities. “2016 was the year of a rich promotional environment, and there were times when agents were confused by the different offers that were available to them,” Daly said. “With so many great offers, it caused consumer confusion as well with regard to which promo was combinable with each offer. To be successful in 2017, travel agents must take the time to be informed on all the relevant promotional offers that are available to their customer.”

CLOSE-TO-HOME RIVER CRUISES

Yes, river cruising continues to boom in Europe, but more consumers are asking about options on inland waterways in the U.S. “River cruising continues to grow. European river cruises are the most popular option, but Nexion agents are reporting that river cruising in the U.S. is requested more,” Friedman said. “For people who prefer not to leave the country, domestic river cruise suppliers can supply the trip of a lifetime – no passport required.”

ALASKA GROWTH, EUROPE DEALS

Alaska continues to thrive, said Ashley Hunter, vice president of sales development at Avoya. “2016 was a great year for Alaska cruising and we expect another strong year in 2017 due to increased capacity and investments made by major cruise lines to enhance their Alaska product offerings,” she explained. “For example, in 2017 travelers will have an opportunity to celebrate 70 years of Alaska exploration with Holland America Line and experience its culture on a whole new level with the recent launch of Denali Square, which is located at the center of McKinley Chalet Resort. This authentic gathering place is just one example of how cruise lines are making major refinements to Alaska itineraries to provide guests with a more immersive experience and continue to attract first-time cruisers and North America travelers who are interested in booking domestic.”

More consumers to book European cruises in 2017, attracted by promotions already on offer. “We’ve seen some very aggressive offers already launched this fall, from discounted up to free airfare and incredible advance booking savings. The best offers will continue to come out within the next couple of months to try and fill inventory early,” she said. “Travel agents who stay savvy on the latest promotions and combinable offers will have the most success selling Europe. A best practice for travel agents this Wave Season is to reach out to clients who have already expressed interest in Europe this past year, but perhaps haven’t pulled the trigger yet on booking, and those who booked a past Europe vacation around the same time last year.”
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