The shift in selling patterns means there is less focus on the traditional sales season, writes Sam Ballard of Cruise Adviser, but 2018 is still set to be one of the best in recent memory.
At a recent travel industry event, I asked a couple of senior agents whether wave season was as crucial to them as many industry commentators would have you believe. Their answers surprised me: “Not really, no,” they all said, unanimously.
The reason, they explained, was that their businesses were no longer as reliant on a good January selling period as they had once been. There were now so many other sales opportunities throughout the year – from summer sales to Black Friday – that traditional selling patterns had significantly shifted.
THE MARKET IN GENERAL
That’s interesting for a number of reasons and backs up a point we covered last year, first highlighted in Abta’s Holiday Habits Report 2017. In it, Abta said that the number of Britons taking a holiday was 87 per cent – the highest it had been since 2011. Perhaps even more interesting was the fact that the average number of holidays taken had risen to 3.8 per person. Foreign holidays had gone up from 1.4 to 1.7 per person, with almost 60 per cent of us now going abroad for a holiday.
Those numbers are approaching pre-financial crash levels. That, coupled with a levelling out of booking patterns, can only be good news for the travel agent community. After all, it means that your year will no longer be judged on whether or not your January was deemed a success.
THE CRUISE MARKET
One other statistic that came out of the report is worth highlighting here, too. While seven per cent of respondents had been on a cruise holiday in the last 12 months, double that amount (14 per cent) said that they were considering going on one in 2018. While there might not be as much of an emphasis on the wave period, the planets look like they are aligning to make this one of the most promising times for cruise sales in recent memory, according to Abta’s statistics at least.
So expect more of an interest from those elusive new-to-cruise customers. Abta and Clia are hosting their own new-to-cruise conference in London this March that will cover much of what’s involved in selling to that audience – including a look at millennials who might be more interested in cruise holidays than previous younger generations. The research all points to more people who might consider dipping their toe and trying a cruise holiday for the first time.
KNOW YOUR FACTS
Remember the usual rules apply: there’s a cruise for everyone, but sell someone on the wrong cruise and the chances are that you will lose them forever. However, get it right and you will have a repeat customer making high-value bookings with you time and time again.