Catering for the needs of consumers open to the idea of cruising, but have yet to be convinced, is the biggest challenge facing the sector, according to a report out today (Wednesday).
The Amadeus research suggests that people value the advice and personal service from cruise travel agents.
Agents with up-to-date information at their fingertips can be a “decisive factor” for closing sales by tailoring the cruise experience to the needs of their customers.
The poll results, issued on the eve of the annual Clia UK & Ireland Selling Cruise conference in Southampton, reveals that 42% of adults who holiday abroad have never taken a cruise, but would be tempted to do so in the future.
In addition, 30% would consider swapping an all-inclusive land-based holiday with an all-inclusive cruise of the same value.
This presents a “significant opportunity” for agents and the cruise industry to expand their customer base and change existing perceptions of cruise holidays.
However, price still remains the top concern of travellers, with 50% of respondents worrying about the overall travel cost and 35% about the perceived lack of transparency on additional charges.
The percentage of all young adults (18-24 year olds) who perceive cruise travel as too expensive has grown by 12% in the last two years, from 40% in 2013 to 52% in 2015.
The survey of 2,000 UK adults conducted by YouGov found that choice, flexibility and personalisation were the main priorities.
When asked what they would want from a cruise booking agent, consumers continue to value high quality service with tailored advice. Rated highest was the ability to provide up to date information on the latest offers and deals (41%), followed by the ability to provide tailored travel options (38%), expert advice on the best travel destinations (35%) and speed of responses (34%).
Almost a third (31%) would be more likely to book a cruise if they were offered more unique, interesting, or hard-to-reach destinations, followed by smaller cruise ships (19%) and more activities on board (19%).
Being able to travel with like-minded individuals and having a more personalised service was also high on the agenda for 18% and 17% of consumers respectively.
The findings suggest demand for cruise travel this year is similar to previous years, with 7% of adults saying that they had already booked or were planning to book a cruise in the next 12 months.
However, a younger range of travellers who holiday abroad - 52% of 25-34 year olds - would be tempted to take a cruise, even though they have never been on one before.
A quarter of 18-24 year olds favour a more personalised service on the ship compared to just 15% of 25-44 year olds.
The proportion of all 18-24 year olds who said not being able to set their own itinerary would put them off a cruise has increased significantly in the past two years, from 26% in 2013 to 39% in 2015.
The data also reveals that there is still a clear opportunity to educate consumers on the benefits of cruise travel. While a high number of holidaymakers were aware of the different services and activities offered on board, almost a third (32%) disagree that the industry makes cruise seem young, fresh and appealing to them.
Being stuck on a ship for an extended period of time was a off-putting for 44% of respondents, followed by not being able to get away from other holidaymakers (38%) and not being able to set their own itinerary (29%).
A total of 41% of travellers think it is easy to research and compare cruises online.On board technology is another key requirement with 62% of respondents wanting super fast Wi Fi on board and nearly a third (30%) expecting 24/7 technology support during their cruise.
Amadeus UK and Ireland marketing director, Rose Fernandez, said: “There is a clear opportunity for travel sellers and cruise providers to communicate the breadth of product, wide range of experiences and terrific value that cruise holidays offer to new and existing customers in 2015.
“Being able to propose more customised travel options will be essential for tapping into this huge market of consumers who, until now, haven’t traditionally opted for a cruise.
“Technology innovation that shapes the future of travel will play a key role, by enabling agents to drive customer engagement and personalisation.
“Defying outdated pre-conceptions about cruise travel will continue to be a crucial success factor in how the industry engages with modern travellers and particularly with the growing proportion of millennials willing to try a cruise holiday.”for growth and will encourage exciting innovations in the industry.
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