Agents play a “vital role” in cruise industry, says CLIA report

Agents play a “vital role” in cruise industry, says CLIA report

WASHINGTON – Travel agents are playing an increasingly important role in booking cruises and identifying trends, says CLIA’s newly released Travel Agent Cruise Industry Outlook Report of 2016.

The report, the third installment in an ongoing quarterly research study, is compiled based on online survey responses from the CLIA Travel Agent Research Panel, comprised of 700 travel agents from North America. In addition to the latest cruise industry trends and forecasts, the report reveals that as the demand for cruising continues to grow, so to does the need for travel agents.

“The Travel Agent Cruise Industry Outlook enables us to identify key trends using the insights of travel agents,” said Cindy D’Aoust, president and CEO, CLIA. “A key finding from the report is that, as people continue to travel the globe, travel agents are playing a vital role in matching travelers desires to the right cruise experience both near and far.”

According to CLIA, travel agents are able to act as barometers for emerging trends since they have both expertise of the cruise industry and ongoing insights from their clients. The report indicates that agents are predicting sales growth for the remainder of 2016, with nearly 73% expecting to increase sales this year and another 15% expecting no change.

The outlook for 2016 is also looking good in terms of cruise spending, agents say. Among all travel agents, 18% are very optimistic and look forward to a growth rate of 10% or more in the coming months, and another 18% anticipate a growth rate of 6-10%.

Due to recent attacks and other challenges around the world, cruisers appear to be travelling closer to home, says the report. Travel agents say that Alaska once again remains the destination with the greatest upside potential, with 62% anticipating cruising growth in the Last Frontier State. Also, California and the Pacific Coast entered the list of top five destinations, with 28% of agents anticipating increased bookings. Rounding out the list are Caribbean/Bermuda/Mexico (with 48% of agents expecting growth), Canada/New England (35%) and Hawaii (34%).

River cruising continues to be a hit; among all types of cruising, it’s the segment that shows the most growth. This year, 64% of travel agents expect to sell more river cruise packages, while 21% expect to see significant growth in river cruise sales. In second place is Large Ocean Ships, which 54% of agents expect to see growth.

What do cruisers love about river cruising? According to the report, the “intimacy of the experience” reigns supreme, with 83% of agents reporting this as important or very important. Following closely behind it “accessibility to the destination (73%).

Two-thirds of agents (66%) said that all-inclusive options were very important for their clients booking luxury cruises, followed by 58% reporting that luxury cruise clients most valued a unique travel destination.

Overall, all four cruise segments (Mass Market, Premium, Ultra-Luxury and Luxury) will be experiencing growth or stability for the rest of the year, with Mass Market showing the highest growth at 57%.

As for who’s booking cruises, couples and families are almost equally popular, followed by multi-generational families. Travel agents are seeing the most growth in booking parties of one-to-four guests.

To join the CLIA Travel Agent Research Panel, email cliaresearchpanel@cruising.org