The Voice of the Cruise Industry

Exclusive: ‘Interest and demand for cruise has never been higher’

Angus Struthers, Cunard, cruise

Ahead of this year’s CLIA Christmas Forum and Ball on Tuesday (19 December), Cunard vice president of global marketing and EMEA sales Angus Struthers gives Cruise Trade News his exclusive take on the cruise industry’s good fortunes in 2023.

With the CLIA Christmas Forum and Ball taking place next week, which as always will be one of the big events in the cruise calendar, it’s worth reflecting on the incredible year the industry has had.

Interest and demand for a cruise holiday has never been higher and that’s a tribute to everyone across the sector. This year alone, we’ve heard from CLIA that intent to take a holiday at sea is stronger than ever, with a record 91% of cruise passengers from the UK and Ireland saying they intend to sail again in the next two years.

And of those who have never cruised before, 72% would consider a voyage in the next few years, which is up from 68% in 2022 and shows more people than ever before are open to dipping their toe in the water.

As reported in the media, alongside a number of other cruise lines across the industry, from Cunard’s perspective, it’s been notable that trading has remained incredibly strong throughout the past 12 months.

We started the year with our best wave period in the last decade and most recently with a record-breaking Black Friday period, and as we head into the new year we’ll be looking to meet and exceed these numbers wherever possible. All the signs are exceptionally positive that this will be the case.

Interestingly, we can see an increase in bookings across every age range compared to last year. The strongest interest is from guests in their 50s and younger, who have booked over 75% more Cunard cruises this year compared to last year.

Encouragingly, half of our guest bookings have been from travellers who are new to the Cunard brand. And existing guests are upping the number of voyages they take with us, as we’ve seen a notable increase in those booking their fifth Cunard voyage or more, at almost double compared to last year.

Cruise is particularly trade-friendly, with many lines placing agents at the heart of their activities. Our UK-based trade development and engagement team has grown across the year and we’re always on hand to offer agents support.

We need to keep listening to agents’ feedback and making sure we’re getting the right information out as quickly as possible and in as engaging a way as possible. After all, we know we’re not the only cruise line or holiday company giving updates and so it’s a key objective of ours to make working with Cunard as easy as possible.

Cruise demand showing ‘no sign of slowing’

Hopefully we’re doing a really good job on this front and we’ll continue to build on that momentum, with regular updates and ways to earn via our agent reward scheme, Shine Rewards Club, as well as more store, homeworker and head office visits lined up than ever next year.

It’s a well-worn phrase that there “is a cruise for everyone”, but it rings true now more than ever. The range of ships and their onboard offerings, the itineraries they sail to and the shore experience options will be more diverse than ever in 2024, and with it they offer a wonderful range of choice for customers.

Excitingly, over 20 new ships will enter the market from January. This includes our very own Queen Anne, which will launch in May and increase our fleet to four, boosting overall capacity by 44%. With that, we can increase the choice of destinations and sailings we offer guests.

And as demand shows no sign of slowing, we can extend the booking window with guests confirming their voyages further out versus previous years, and in doing so helping maintain a higher average selling price.

Next week the cruise industry will come together to celebrate a successful 2023 and I’m sure we’re all looking forward to marking the occasion with one another. At the same time, and with Wave on the horizon, we’ll be looking forward to the opportunities that await us in 2024.

Let’s hope next year is just as positive as the past 12 months and I know that all of us across the sector, no matter what our interest, will be working collectively with the trade to deliver more amazing holiday experiences.

Many thanks to you all for your incredible hard work and, on behalf of everyone at Cunard, have a merry Christmas and prosperous new year.

Angus Struthers is vice president of global marketing and EMEA sales at Cunard

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