Operators’ hopes of growing the cruise market by appealing to first-time cruisers could be dealt a blow by the Costa Concordia tragedy, according to agents.
Cruise retailers said they had been surprised how few customers with forward cruise bookings had been in touch to express concern or to cancel in the days following the disaster.
However, they said first-time cruisers – an important target market for the cruise lines – could be deterred by media images of the stricken Costa Concordia.
Cruise Club International director Graham Dullop said: “Those new to cruising might postpone booking. If they were thinking of booking a larger ship, they might reconsider.”
Advantage chief executive John McEwan said there had been “no adverse effect” on weekend bookings but admitted first-time cruisers were the most likely to question whether to cruise.
He said: “Existing cruisers will be able to put this into context, but it’s people who have never cruised before who might ask whether it’s safe.”
Miles Morgan, who has organised two Titanic Memorial Cruises in April, said: “I was hoping these cruises would be a fantastic advertisement for cruising in 2012. The sad thing is that every mention of the Titanic will now reference the Costa Concordia tragedy.”
Surprisingly, hits on the memorial cruise website were 50% up on the day after the disaster, he said.
Agents were confident the incident would not impact the cruise market in the long term. Oliver Broad, chairman of Aito Specialist Travel Agents, said: “Hopefully an incident like this won’t put people off cruising. People might skip a cruise holiday this year, but long term they will not forgo cruising entirely.”
A poll on Travel Weekly’s sister site gazetteers.com, the online directory, revealed 60% of agents believed the disaster would have only a short-term effect on cruise bookings, 15% thought it would have long-term impact and 25% thought it would be negligible.
Thomas Cook said it had had no cancellations due to the disaster.
Ian Ailles, mainstream managing director, said: “We would imagine there would be a pause and perhaps a slowdown. But cruise has had an extended period of growth and we expect that to continue in the long term.”
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