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Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Conditional Sailing Order — guidelines for the resumption of cruising that were issued in October — have not led to an increased interest in cruising. In a survey of nearly 300 travel advisors, part of TravelAge West’s Need to Know research series, 89% of respondents say it did not help bookings, and 83% report that the announcement led to no increase in inquiries.
In addition, the vast majority of advisors (88%), expect land vacations to bounce back faster than cruise travel. But this is not to say that they are entirely pessimistic about the future of cruising. Most advisors (37%) think cruising will return to 2019 levels by the end of this year, with the next largest group (28%) looking to the first half of 2022.
“In our experience, after Thanksgiving — when families either got together or got together on Zoom — we started seeing a big increase in interest,” said Danny Genung, CEO of Harr Travel in Redlands, Calif. “Most of it is for 2022, but there a lot of people who are dreaming of cruising and who are ready to book, and pay, now. My advice is to look beyond your current client base. We’ve already well surpassed our 2019 cruise business already, just by focusing on expanding our reach to new customers.”
More than two-thirds of advisors (67%) say cruise lines are doing a good job sharing information about the pandemic-related changes they are making. But most advisors are also doing extra research on their own. Nearly three-fourths (73%) have taken advantage of educational resources, such as webinars, related to CDC guidelines or individual cruise line protocols.
“If you’re actively selling cruises, you simply need to know what these protocols mean exactly,” Genung said. “And we’ve found that potential customers actually are very interested in the guidelines and protocols. They want to know why these changes are being made and what it all means. This has even been a good way to start a conversation with clients — there are a lot of cruise fans out there and they are interested in this information.”
If you’re actively selling cruises, you simply need to know what these protocols mean exactly.
Advisors feel the top factor in restarting cruise travel will be a widely distributed vaccine (67%); followed by seeing cruise changes succeed in lowering COVID-19 cases on ships (17%); experiencing cruise changes first-hand (9%); and less-restrictive cancellation/rebooking policies (7%).
Until some of these conditions are reached, advisors seem to be waiting to promote cruising to clients. Nearly two-thirds (65%) do not have any marketing plans related to the restart of cruising.
“I understand that there are probably a lot of advisors who don’t want to actively promote cruising for the first three to six months once it starts up so they can wait and see how it all goes,” Genung said. “But if advisors are simply not planning on selling cruises at all, they are turning their backs on a huge market. People are interested and want to make plans. If you’re not marketing to them, you’re missing the boat — literally and figuratively.”
“Need to Know” is a research series from TravelAge West that tracks the responses of advisors as they relate to various travel trends and topics. This survey recorded the responses of 298 advisors across the U.S. Click here to see more Need to Know stories.