The mainstream cruise market is suffering along with the rest of the holiday industry, but niche sectors are growing, according to travel agency consortia.
Advantage said river and luxury cruising were performing well, with bookings up 25% and 2% respectively year on year, while mainstream was down by 8% to 10%.
John Sullivan, Advantage head of commercial, said: “In the first quarter mass-market cruising has definitely been challenging, in line with the general mass market.
“There are a number of factors; one is the Costa Concordia, but that only comes into play if you are a potential first-time cruiser.
“You can see from the strength of some of the pricing, particularly from Complete Cruise Solution and promotions like free flights, how lines are fighting to attract business.”
The Travel Network Group said larger ships in the family market had been hit the most and sales were “slightly down”, but it was working on tactical offers to address this.
Stephen Joyner, cruise manager at the consortia, which incorporates Worldchoice and TTA, said: “We are strong in the luxury and explorer cruise sectors and trading is up year on year. We are also seeing our average selling prices on the increase too.”
Sullivan said another trend was changing bookings patterns. “The cruise industry has got to get used to the fact that passengers are booking later.”
The consortia view was reflected by high street agents.
Ian Bates, joint manager of Worldchoice Travel, Shrewsbury, said luxury was faring well and it had just taken a £25,000 booking with Regent Seven Seas.
“We have also done some good business with Silversea and Celebrity Cruises has been really busy for us,” he said.
Scott Harrison, manager of Brunlea Travel, Burnley, said its cruise business was growing at 15% to 20% a year and he expected that trend to continue.
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