Clia’s Andy Harmer outlines the experiences offered on cruise holidays
What was your New Year’s Resolution? Is it still intact?
Probably not, like most of the population! How about resolving to try new experiences, and to do things differently in 2018, rather than vowing to cut all sugar, and to not even look at a carbohydrate? Sounds more achievable, and far more fun!
So, to apply this to the business environment, perhaps in 2018, taking time to show your customers a slightly different option for them to consider when planning their travel for the year; to illustrate to them the incredible breadth of experiences offered by a cruise holiday, would be a good resolution to make?
The evolution of a cruise holiday as a truly experiential travel choice can’t be ignored. Customers across our industry, from river to ocean to small ship expedition cruise, are taking a step further and demanding increasingly off-the-beaten-track destinations, for authentic, in-depth experiences.
They’re looking for ‘sight-do’, rather than ‘sight-see’ holidays, as such, a move towards unusual, often bespoke, day excursions, and off-the-beaten-track cruise destinations, such as Asia, Africa, the Galapagos, and trips to the Arctic and Antarctica, are becoming more popular than ever.
Many cruise excursions now include the opportunity to indulge in local cuisine, guided tours through small villages and even visits inside private homes. Thrill-seekers can tick off their bucket lists with chances to swim with sharks in South Africa, ride a Harley Davidson in Alaska or mingle with penguins in the Antarctic.
Adventure, or ‘expedition’ cruising, used to mean forgoing comfort and glamour in a bid to see some of the globe’s most far-flung, unusual and exotic destinations.
However, thanks to lines adding new ships including Silversea, Scenic, Celebrity Cruises and Hapag-Lloyd, and thanks to cruise lines choosing more diverse itineraries, this is no longer the case and even the most remote corners of the globe can be explored in comfort.
The reinvention of river cruising is set to continue in 2018, with new ships, younger passengers than ever before, and exciting new itinerary options. The rise in river cruise bookings from Millennial travellers, spearheaded by the launch of U by Uniworld in April, is largely being driven by the appeal of travelling on smaller ships, and having the opportunity to have a more experience-led holiday, something which agents should be looking to capitalise on.
To help with this, CLIA holds a number of river events each year for travel agents to immerse themselves wholly in the sector, from our first-ever Asia Forum in Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam in April, to our annual European river event in November.
In ocean and river cruise selling, having access to up-to-date destination knowledge is the key to succeeding in helping your customers take a step further, to try something new, in 2018. So, do take part in the online learning modules offered by CLIA, our cruise lines and destinations from all over the world, and get involved with the calendar of events we have scheduled for the next 12 months.
Through the events we aim to bring the sector to life. The upcoming Asia Forum will be the perfect opportunity to find out more about this incredibly diverse and intriguing region. We will have destination experts on hand to talk to delegates, plus the celebrity Vietnamese-Australian chef and restaurateur Luke Nguyen, will be appearing courtesy of APT.
Closer to home, in May at the annual conference, the largest event for UK travel agents, there will be an exciting line-up of inspiring speakers from within the industry, and from outside it, to showcase the incredible variety destinations and new activities and entertainment from CLIA member lines, as well as the opportunity to visit ships.
Overall, 2018 looks set to be another incredibly exciting year for the cruise industry, so let’s all resolve to make the most of it!