Opinion: Operators on land have a new rival – at sea

Opinion: Operators on land have a new rival – at sea

Cruise will this year become a mainstream holiday choice, says Miles Morgan, managing director of Miles Morgan Travel

Look out, Tui, Cook and Jet2, your new competitor has finally arrived.

As a travel agent you look at holiday offers day in, day out. You get used to seeing them and they start to merge.

But when travel agents start booking themselves on offers available not only to the trade but to the general public as well, you have to take notice.

My staff are seasoned travellers who will and can go anywhere. But more than anything, they really know what good value looks like.

So what are the holidays in question? I’m talking about cruises in the Med.

Cruising’s evolution

For many years, cruise holidays have been on the up; the numbers Clia publish show excellent growth in the market – almost two million people took a cruise in the UK last year.

Despite this, the cruise industry has always been a sideshow to the land-based holiday market dominated by Tui, Thomas Cook and now Jet2.

Of course, cruise is still only a small proportion of the holiday market, but it’s growing by a minimum of 100,000 passengers a year, all of which has an impact on land-based holidays.

In my almost 10 years at Tui [until 2006], we never really considered cruise a competitor – it was all about Thomas Cook and the like. Fast forward to 2018 and most people now know someone who has not only taken a cruise but also dispelled the ‘old‑fart’ image and probably waxed lyrical about the facilities on the ‘super-ships’.

So on these wintry days, when the weather is awful, the fire is roaring and the brochures or tablet are on the coffee table, I bet cruise might well be in the mix.

But why have things changed this year? Mainstream holiday prices across the Med are up yet again in 2018. Spanish hoteliers have once again grabbed the opportunity and increased prices as they see the British holidaymaker is still slightly worried about Turkey and the eastern Med. In combination, with the value of the pound down, customers are starting to baulk at prices.

Amazing ships

While this is happening, the cruise lines are trying to outdo one another with their extra facilities, quality and value to tempt would-be travellers. What a time to be a cruise customer: the ships are amazing and just look at the value for money their all‑inclusive prices offer.

I think 2018 and beyond will be the year that the mainstream holiday companies have to look to the water for their competition. My business, a Clia member, has worked hard to train staff and we regularly attend ship visits. We are now reaping the benefits and I don’t think this is just a phase.

Last week I sat next to Antonio Paradiso, the charismatic managing director of MSC Cruises. From what he told me, it is clear the cruise customer is in for even more value, great onboard experience and holiday entertainment in the years to come. I have no doubt the same is true for P&O Cruises, Royal Caribbean International and others with their future plans.

So stand by to see cruise becoming totally mainstream and going 100% head to head with land-based holiday providers this year and beyond.

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