The Voice of the Cruise Industry

10 key takeaways from the 2024 Cruise Summit

Sustainability, how to engage younger travellers and the implications of a new government were some of the main insights revealed at this year’s Cruise Summit

Nearly 175 agents, cruise line employees and travel experts came together on 17 June at News UK’s offices for the third annual Cruise Summit, where speakers mapped the exciting future that lies ahead for our industry.

The day kicked off with an opening address from Real Response Media editorial director Lee Hayhurst, before CLIA UK & Ireland managing director Andy Harmer took to the stage to share the association’s latest membership research. The data focus continued with TravelTek chief commercial officer Cressida Sergeant diving into 2024 booking trends before Jack Carter, editor of Cruise Trade News, revealed the findings of the publication’s extensive consumer and industry reader survey.

Other highlights of the day included Google’s Amelie Matuschka and Meta’s Russell Pert who shared an exclusive look at the tech giants’ latest travel insights, before five media platforms – including ITV, Times Radio and Force24 – went head-to-head to argue why their form of media is the best for the audiences’ marketing strategies.

Here, we’ve revealed some of the key insights and takeaways that were shared over the course of an absorbing day of panels, roundtables and keynotes.

  1. Young people want to cruise

Meta’s group director Russell Pert revealed that travellers aged between 16-44 are just as likely to take a cruise in the next five years as travellers aged 45 and over. Pert was quoting a Mintel survey of 2,000 travellers aged 16+, which was conducted in November 2023, in which he shared that 30 per cent of 16–24-year-olds were interested in taking a cruise in the next five years, compared to 21 per cent of 55 to 64-year-olds.

  1. Cruise industry needs more support from next UK government

Andy Harmer, managing director of CLIA UK, told the audience that sustainability efforts need accelerating, with the party that wins the General Election on 4 July needing to play a central role.

“Whatever colour the next UK government will be, we are asking them to accelerate the availability of alternative fuels,” he told delegates. We are asking for support for port infrastructure because we need the right fuels in the right places. We need to be able to plug in. It’s happening in Europe quite quickly, but not in the UK.”

  1. Sustainability yet to influence consumer behaviour, says trade

It was also revealed that more than half of World of Cruising readers say sustainability either greatly impacts their decision or they actively want to learn more about how to travel responsibly, implying that it will impact their decision in the near future.

However, roughly 75 per cent of travel agents who responded to Cruise Trade News’ industry-wide survey say sustainability rarely, if at all, impacts their clients’ decision making. This is echoed by TravelTek’s own research, which reports that travellers have only a moderate interest in sustainable cruising.

  1. Industry needs to do more to promote sustainbility

While addressing delegates, Cressida Sergeant, chief commercial office for TravelTek, argued that one of the reasons why sustainability isn’t more influential in travellers’ decision making is the lack of available information about cruise lines’ sustainability efforts. According to Traveltek’s research, 50 per cent of lines aren’t actively promoting their sustainability credentials, meaning consumers may not be aware of the sustainable travel decisions available to them.

Furthermore, nearly 40 per cent of agents surveyed say they don’t feel they have enough information to help with clients’ questions about the environmental friendliness of a particular cruise line.

  1. Week-long itineraries top booking trends

Sergeant also highlighted that the average age of consumers booking with TravelTek’s platform is 48 and so far in 2024, the firm has seen an increase in shorter and longer sailings. Seven-night itineraries remain the most popular, accounting for 57 per cent of total bookings, followed by 14-night itineraries at 17 per cent. Meanwhile, average booking value in 2024 is down £200 on 2019.

Jack Carter Cruise Summit
“The fact that more travellers want to experience luxury, river and expedition shows that the messaging is landing,” says Cruise Trade News’ Jack Carter
  1. The most popular lines among The Sun and The Times readers revealed

According to Georgie Lamden, partnerships manager, travel for News UK, visiting multiple destinations in one holiday and combining relaxation with adventure are cruise’s key selling points among The Sun and The Timesreaders.

A News UK reader panel conducted earlier this year found that P&O Cruises, Royal Caribbean and Virgin Voyages were the most popular lines for readers of The Sun, while Cunard, P&O Cruises and Viking tracked highest for readers of The Times.

  1. River, expedition and luxury all on the rise

When travel agents were asked which cruise type their clients are most excited to experience in the next 12-18 months, Cruise Trade News’ reader survey found that river, expedition and luxury are on equal footing with ocean cruising.

“The fact that so many of our travel agent readers say their clients want to experience luxury, river and expedition shows that the messaging around these sectors is cutting through,” says Carter. “This should give a huge amount of encouragement to cruise lines operating in these sectors.”

  1. Still work to be done to make cruising accessible to all

While the cruising opportunities for travellers with accessibility needs are growing, 62 per cent of travel agents believe more work needs to be done to ensure the sector fully meet their needs, according to Cruise Trade News’ research.

Areas for improvement include the river cruise sector, where sleeker ships with narrow corridors and tight turning spaces, can be challenging to for guests in wheelchairs and mobility scooters. Additionally, some port destinations are not adequately prepared for meeting accessibility needs while some tenders, needed for disembarking, cannot offer a ramp.

Georgia Lamden News UK
Cunard and P&O Cruises top lines for readers of The Times, says News UK’s Georgie Lamden
  1. Most sought-after destinations all long-haul

The Caribbean, Galápagos Islands, Kimberley River, Alaska and Greenland were mentioned by World of Cruising readers as the destinations they’re most excited to try in the next 12-18 months.

“All five destinations are what you’d consider long-haul trips and, with the exception of the Caribbean, all command itineraries of roughly 10 days or more,” says Carter. “This suggests that cruisegoers are seeing time away from home or distance as less of a barrier to travel.”

  1. Industry still grappling with new-to-cruise misconceptions

Even more promising is the number of travellers who say they are open to experiencing a cruise for the first time, with CLIA reporting that interest has grown from 56 per cent in June 2020 to 71 per cent in March 2024.

However, Cruise Trade News readers are still battling the same myths and misconceptions when it comes to selling to new-to-cruise passengers. “Misconceptions around cruising experiences and price are key barriers when it comes to attracting new-to-cruise customers,” says one respondent, while another said: “Size of ship is a major concern for new-to-cruise travellers.”

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