15.1.2009: CLIA survey finds consumers become greener, budget minded and keener on multi-generation holidays
Consumers are booking their holidays closer to departure than before, they are increasingly concerned about the environment and keener than before to book multi generation holidays, Cruise Lines' International Association (CLIA), the industry's North American ceiling organisation, says in a statement on trends in the industry.
Here are some of the tends that CLIA says characterise today's cruise market:
*Fuel supplements: After instituting varying fuel supplement policies in 2008 in response to extreme jumps in oil prices, the majority of CLIA members lines have now dropped the supplements for cruises in 2009 and 2010 (specifics and restrictions vary with each line).
*Booking patterns: While historically the majority of cruises are booked five to seven months ahead, the current economic climate has shortened that lead time. While still booking a cruise vacation,consumers are deferring the booking commitment closer to the sailing date.
*Budget offers: Many CLIA member lines have responded to the economic crisis with hard-to-resist offers and special promotions. Depending on the company, these include: kids sail free plans, special prices on selected itineraries, enhanced shipboard credit offers, layaway and other flexible payment plans, free airfare and/or shore excursions, adjusted deposit requirements, special small group booking offers, and relaxed cancellation policies.
*International sourcing of passengers: The number of internationally sourced cruise passengers on CLIA member lines increased by 30% year over year through the 3rd quarter of 2008. The percentage of guests sourced from international markets in 2007 was 18.4% of the industry total. CLIA's estimate for 2008 is that a record 23.1% of guests will come from international markets. This is largely due to the fleet's expanded presence in Europe, which represents a potentially large emerging market, and the overall trend toward globalized cruise operations. While this may vary by line, overall, the topinternational passenger source market is Europe, with the top European source countries being the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain.
*Going green: As new ships are introduced, CLIA member lines are taking advantage of the latest technology to produce environmentally-friendly vessels. Even on older ships, every effort is made by many lines to conserve resources and recycle. Among the initiatives and technology being utilized: advanced wastewater purification, air emission reductions, LED lighting, solar power, high efficiency appliances, energy efficient windows, products made from recycled materials, "Eco-speed" and other environmentally-friendly hull coatings, low sulphur fuels, solid and liquid waste procession, water pollution education programs, fuel conservation, food byproduct management and other initiatives.
*Increased focus on family and multi-generational travel: The CLIA fleet carried an estimated 1.6 million kids in 2008; many lines report that those numbers are increasing, in part due to the growth ofmulti-generational bookings. The increase in families cruising together is also evident in some luxury and specialty cruise lines, including coastal and river cruises. Families take many cruises and in fact, a recent CLIA survey found that almost half (46%) of families have taken two to four cruises with children under the age of 18; 15.2% have taken five to seven cruises, and 4.8 percent have taken more than ten.
Families consistently cite outstanding value as their reason to take a cruise. Over 83% said cruise vacations are very good or extremely good value. And, the price is right. Among all family cruisers, 73.4% said that their last cruise was the same price or less than a resort vacation, with almost50% saying that the cruise was slightly or much less costly.
*Growing group travel market: While still a relatively small percentage of total cruising, many lines report increases in the group market, spurred by multi-generational travel, girls'getaways/" mancations," civic and social groups and by enticing, added-value group policies offered by many cruise lines.
*Use of travel agents: Despite, and in some ways because of, the Internet, cruise vacationers continue to use travel agents. Industry-wide, nearly 90% of all cruises are sold through travel agents, many of them CLIA members and CLIA-certified. Some lines report that agent bookings account for as much as 97% of total bookings.
Some trends and observations based on the responses CLIA received from a survey of more than 900 travel agents conducted in early January include:
*Despite the current economic environment, 92% of travel agents are expressing optimism for cruise sales when looking ahead over the next three years.
*More than half (52% ) expect cruise sales in 2009 to be "good" or "very good" compared to 2008 with another 28% anticipating a "fair" cruise sales season.
*In terms of consumer interest and perceived value, cruises out-score all other types of vacations.*Among the destinations that travel agents believe will receive the most bookings this year are The Caribbean/The Bahamas, followed by Alaska, Europe/The Mediterranean, and Mexico.
*By a large margin, a primary motivator for consumers' booking a cruise during the January "Wave Season" is good to extraordinary value offered by the cruise lines. In second place is consumers' love for cruising.