Expedia Group has released new data and demographic insights to help agents and cruise lines better target demand.
The information was announced at Expedia Cruises 2021 Virtual Conference recently.
According to Expedia, the average length of cruise bookings jumped from nine days in Q1 2019 to 11 days in Q1 2021, and the average spend per cabin has also increased by just over 100% for bookings in Q1 2021 compared with bookings in Q1 2019.
This shows a “willingness from some cruise travellers to spend more on their cruise than pre-pandemic,” Expedia says.
With U.S. vaccination rates up and more relaxed travel restrictions, 44% of new bookings in Q1 in the U.S. market were for 2021 departures, 20% of which are for this summer – people are demonstrating that they want to cruise again as soon as possible.
Newly-released research also revealed that the desire to cruise spans different age groups too: although millennials (53%) and Gen Zers (56%) are comparably comfortable with taking a cruise, Millennials (12%) are nearly twice as likely as Gen Zers (7%) to have booked a cruise for some time during the next six months.
New research also showed that despite travellers currently spending more per cabin, lower pricing matters more in cruise compared with other forms of travel in some markets.
From research that looks at what travellers value the most when booking a trip, cruise travel was the only line of business where travellers from numerous countries ranked low pricing as the top value.
Separately, younger generations tend to be thinking more about environmentally-friendly policies when thinking about cruises, most notably with Gen Z in North America ranking it jointly in the second spot after value.
Focus on technology
Expedia Group executives expressed their desire for their business to become leader in digital experiences and content, in supply and transparent pricing, and in service and trip management, by taking full advantage of the company’s platform capabilities to support agents and to serve travellers in the most efficient way possible.
The Cruise Search Results (CSR) tool, also known as the grid view, is a direct result of partners requesting a more agent-focused experience so they can more efficiently shop and compare cruises on behalf of their travellers.
The tool has been highly successful since its launch this year, and last week was updated to enable agents to share up to five cruise itineraries in one email with a few clicks, simplifying both the agent and traveller shopping experience.
A new ‘info site’ experience for cruise shoppers will also be rolled out in the coming months.
The shift of franchisees and Vacation Consultants from Cruise Desk to Expedia Group Partner Central, a technology platform for travel partners, will make it easier for pros to efficiently search and shop for cruises, manage travellers through Customer Relationship Management systems (CRM), perform administrative tasks, create marketing collateral and run reports.
Expedia Group hopes to align its online and offline cruise shopping experience, improving the traveller experience by providing more options to purchase on their preferred method (in-store, mobile, web, or phone) and increasing visibility and conversion for cruise line partners on Expedia Group sites.
Ongoing sales training is restoring confidence in consultants after a hiatus period for many, and to remove friction from the cruise search, book and trip management experience.
Recent trainees who completed the Expedia Cruises’ Princess 3-Day-Sale training generated eight times more bookings during the Princess Cruises 3-Day-Sale this year than those who didn’t take the training.
The evolving role of agents
A media roundtable, moderated by Charles Syvlia, VP of Industry and Trade Relations at Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), addressed the evolving role of agents since the pandemic.
No longer simply a ‘book and go’ mentality, the message from the panel was the need to adapt, upgrade and be better-informed to support travellers through this challenging time.
Now more than ever, agents will be viewed as a consultant and trusted advisor to cruise travellers who inevitably have many more questions about their trip today than before, including details about health and safety protocols, and complexities around refunds and credits.
The conference will also welcome special guest speaker Captain Kate McCue from Celebrity Cruises on its final day, sharing her insights on how the pandemic has impacted sailings and her experiences.
“It is truly wonderful to have so many of our franchisees, Vacation Consultants and wider industry partners join us this week to discuss the future of cruise,” said Matthew Eichhorst, President of Expedia Cruises. “The conference theme is ‘the time is now’ and we’ve never felt so much energy from our partners and travellers to return to cruising as soon as possible.”
“Almost 70% of the conference attendees said in a pre-conference survey that the industry will be back to 2019 demand levels by the end of 2022, so there is great optimism.”
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