Data from the Expedia Group is showing that the cruise industry is starting to see slow signs of recovery as interest for cruise trips has increased in recent weeks, for sailings next year.
The insight comes after the CDC let its no-sail order expire on Oct. 31 in exchange for a conditional sail order.
While cruise has been one of the hardest hit industries of the pandemic, the encouraging search data suggests that there is clear pent-up demand from North American travellers eager to hit the waters as soon as possible.
Travellers are keen to travel
Global searches between April and September this year for cruises in 2021 have been gradually increasing month-on-month, with a noticeable month-on-month spike between August and September of +30%.
In September, the most popular destinations for Canadian travellers searching for 2021 cruises were Caribbean, Europe, Hawaii, and Alaska.
During a recent promotion run by Expedia Cruises and Princess Cruises, almost 9,000 passengers booked in just three days during the annual "3 Day Sale" which ran from 24-26 September, for cruises in 2021 and 2022, further indicating strong traveler intent.
Of those, a third were for trips to the Caribbean.
These numbers were supported by Expedia Group data that showed the most popular month for U.S. travellers searching on its sites in September was for sailings in January 2021, a clear sign that travellers are keen to travel as early as possible next year.
Supporting local communities
Cruise lines are working hard to make considerable safety upgrades and onboard protocol changes to adapt to the current environment which may be contributing to the surge in consumer confidence.
The key focus areas include boarding screenings, onboard testing, daily temperature checks for all guests, dedicated onboard quarantine areas, enhanced HEPA air filtration systems and dining reorganization.
Cruise guests help boost local destinations and economies. The increased interest for cruise may also be having a positive impact on the wider industry, as guests search for lodging options as part of their trip.
In the second quarter of this year (April - June) Canadian travellers were searching for lodging in cruise hotspots such as Mexico, Florida, Hawaii and the Bahamas, for trips in January 2021.
Moving into the third quarter of the year, Expedia saw an increase by Canadian travellers for lodging in Vancouver, with five times more searches for trips in January 2021 than searches in the previous quarter.
An uptick of interest in these departure port destinations highlights the importance and value of cruise customers in boosting the local travel industry and economy.
While a number of destinations are still being impacted by government restrictions and closed borders, and many cruise lines plan to maintain the ongoing voluntary suspension of cruise operations in the U.S. until the end of the year, the data from Expedia Group suggests demand will return once these are lifted.
New technology for agents
Technology spearheads recovery by enabling automated and frictionless partner experience Expedia Cruises recently launched the first phase of its on boarding of cruise partners to ExpediaGroup Partner Central, the complimentary B2B technology platform for partners that offers a suite of technology tools and data insights to optimize their performance.
Originally built for Expedia Group’s lodging partners, the extension of the offering of Partner Central to cruise partners allows ExpediaCruises to consolidate disparate supply platforms and multiple tools into one platform, merchandising tool and agent tool.
The groundbreaking move means that phone call inquiries and customer emails can be managed on the platform, and bookings can be automated where necessary.
The phased rollout will continue into next year to bring Expedia Cruises’ 300 retail locations and 6,100 expert Vacation Consultants onto the platform, in addition to remote North American service agents and some Expedia Partner Solutions partners.
“2020 has undoubtedly been one of the hardest years in history for the cruise industry, but these early signs of recovery are extremely encouraging. While we know there are still a number of obstacles facing the industry, we’re optimistic that demand is there, and the CDC’s recent announcement is an incredibly positive step forward," said Matthew Eichhorst, vice-president, global cruise at ExpediaGroup. “Communication with our partners in this environment has been critical. We are working hard to ensure they have the tools and technology they need during this challenging time, and that travellers are aware of the additional support and cleanliness measures cruise companies are offering, both on our sites and via our cruise representatives and travel agents. We are confident the industry can emerge from this even stronger than it was before the pandemic.”
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