In my last update, I touched on the continued growth in cruising and the remarkable impact of that sustained growth to the global economy. In this issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review, I’d like to share more about the innovation by the cruise lines which is driving growth now and into the future.
First, I am happy to report that the popularity of cruising continues to increase and the industry is hitting all-time highs. That’s great news for travel agents, for industry partners, for consumers who are already passionate about cruising and for those new to cruising from all over the world who will soon be passionate about it!
In the past decade, the cruise industry has increased passenger numbers by 66%. The number of passengers has grown every year since 1995 and shows no signs of slowing. And, as I reported in my last update, passenger counts are forecasted to achieve a record high of 21.7 million this year.
This impressive growth is a result of the continuous innovation of our cruise line members in ship design, in the onboard experience, in the destinations they offer and in consumer-facing technology. I am convinced that no segment of the leisure travel industry is closer to the consumer or responds more rapidly and impressively to the consumer than our industry. Let me share some examples.
Avid cruisers, and vacationers in general, are interested in exploring more of the world, discovering exotic destinations. Some of the hottest destinations for 2014 are South America, the Middle East, Africa, US rivers and exotic rivers. Transpacific and world cruises are also popular.
In addition, cruise lines are breaking the norm of sunset departures from destinations. Staying in port longer allows longer stays which means more immersion in the destination and more time for exploration.
Along with expecting new destinations, there is an increased desire by consumers for more active vacations. Cruise lines have responded by creating high-energy activities onboard like ice skating and surfing and by offering unique, adventurous, even one-of-a-kind shore excursions. Princess Cruises’ Alaskan voyages, for example, offer journeys to the Mendenhall Glacier that stretches from the Juneau Icefield to Mendenhall Lake, while Norwegian Cruise Line provides cruisers with a chance to blast into the heart of the Mexican jungle onboard a Jet boat.
For vacationers looking to indulge their personal passions aside from adventure – whether it’s an interest in wine, cuisine, music, continuous learning, wellness, or dozens of other choices – the cruise lines are responding with unexpected amenities and facilities. Options include an epicurean experience highlighting the best of the Riviera onboard the Seabourn Sojourn, while Holland America Line gives travellers a chance to relax and unwind at its Greenhouse Spa & Salon in a hydrotherapy pool or a heated ceramic relaxation lounge.
Another area of innovation which our guests expect and which will attract first-time cruisers is the technology arena. While vacationers may want to unplug from the day-to-day work world while on vacation, they want to stay connected to their social world. They are eager to share their great cruise experience with friends and family through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the next new social platform. They also want to stay ‘in the know’ with onboard information delivered through technology, including innovative mobile apps so guests can stay plugged in and in touch with an exciting array of daily shipboard events and activities. One of the most innovative technology developments is the ability to try out a new sky-diving simulator on Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas.
Fantastic onboard entertainment has always been a hallmark of cruising and the lines are innovating here as well to deliver the latest in what guests love. Carnival Cruise Lines is catering to the younger set with its Seuss at Sea programme, while MSC Cruises hits a musical note with dance orchestras, classical string quartets and jazz quintets.
It’s impossible to replicate in any other type of vacation the value received through the variety and quality of entertainment offered as part of a cruise vacation.
Two huge demographic segments which will continue to offer growth and drive innovation are baby boomers and millennials, especially as they evolve into frequent travellers.
At 95 million strong, the millennials – those born between 1980 and 2000 – have a strong desire for travel and shared experiences. Millennials represent a significant future market for the cruise industry, as a whole new generation has the opportunity to become first-time cruisers. Many of them first cruised with their parents and are continuing the tradition.
And the baby boomers, at 78 million – born between 1946 and 1964 – are, and will continue to be, the most active older population in history. The youngest are only 50, with many in their peak earning years and with children at home, making cruising for the whole family great value. The oldest, who are turning 68, are defying traditional stereotypes by continuing to work, seeking new horizons, and enjoying cruising with their children and grandchildren.
A third trend is the momentum of passengers outside North America discovering and embracing cruising. Passenger sourcing continues to diversify, encompassing more countries in Europe, China, Australia and New Zealand, to name a few. More than 500,000 Chinese tourists took cruises beyond their mainland in 2013. This was double the number that cruised in 2012 and industry forecasts have the country second only to the United States in passenger numbers by 2017.
The world’s vacationers have 30 new CLIA ships to choose from which were launched or will be launched between 2013 and year-end 2014. From 2015 through 2019, the industry will add 37 more, at a total investment of nearly $13 billion dollars. These ships span an array from a 5,400-passenger luxury ocean liner to more intimate vessels. With each new ship, the consumer options and the cruise experience becomes even more exciting.
Stunning innovations, combined with a 95% customer satisfaction rate, make it clear that more and more of the world’s population will choose to cruise.
In addition, consumers new to cruise can have the highest confidence that CLIA’s travel agent members, representing more than 50,000 professionals, will be there to make certain they select the cruise experience that is perfect for them – complete with world-class dining, entertainment, amenities and activities not found in any other vacation option, including full-service resorts.
Hands down, no other segment of travel goes further to satisfy customer desires, exceed expectations and deliver an exceptional experience. The cruise industry’s commitment to constant innovation and creative marketing has resulted in sustained growth for decades and will continue to drive our success into the future.
This article appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2014 edition of International Cruise & Ferry Review. To read other articles, you can subscribe to the magazine in printed or digital formats.