The rapid rise of social media giant TikTok presents a unique opportunity for cruise agents to attract a new strain of consumers as demand for holidays-at-sea continues to reach new heights.
This was the message from the video sharing platform’s travel lead, Hannah Bennett, who spoke during the CTN and CLIA Cruise Summit on Monday (9 October).
According to Bennett, the term #Cruise has more than 11 billion views on the platform and #Travel has amassed a staggering 200 billion views. Nearly a quarter (23%) of people viewing travel-related posts are leaving comments – an opportunity, Bennett said, for agents to engage with potential clients.
“If you’re planning on diversifying your audience base, TikTok could be the place for you,” Bennett continued. “#Travel is one of our biggest and fastest growing content streams.
“There is a community there that is excited and eager to engage with travel companies, especially with cruise lines.”
A good path into TikTok for brands yet to make the venture, Bennett said, would be through partnering with content creators who have a loyal following from all walks of life.
TikTok ‘crucial’ in reaching ‘evolving’ cruise demographic
People are also no longer using the platform just for entertainment purposes, Bennett claimed. “They are here for inspiration on where to travel, to research the places they are going and to connect with travel companies and local communities.”
The importance of TikTok was echoed by founder of Social Trinity Max Lonsdale and the firm’s business director Dani Briers, who offered delegates advice on how to maximise reach on social media and increase engagement.
“Activate and engage with your network frequently,” Briers said. “I would implore you to make the most of Reels and video on Instagram and TikTok, and use it to engage your customers with your business and your product.”
Opening the conference, CLIA UK and Ireland managing director Andy Harmer said the age group most interested in taking a cruise was millennials, which is now a key demographic for the industry.
“There will be a £44bn investment through to 2027 for new ships,” he added. “And 91 per cent of those who have cruised are cruising again in the next two years.
“Cruise is having its moment. New cruise lines and partnerships are breaking down misconceptions.”
Cruise ‘must convince’ four million people to holiday-at-sea to fill upcoming capacity
Meanwhile, TravelTek CCO Cressida Sergeant reported the average age of someone who has booked a cruise through the technology firm’s system is 47.
TravelTek’s average booking value so far in 2023 is £3,590, with the most booked cruise line being P&O Cruises. The most booked ship, meanwhile, is MSC Cruises’ Virtuosa.
“In order to keep up with projected capacity increases, the cruise industry must convince four million extra people to take their first cruise by 2025,” Sergeant claimed.
One way this could be achieved, she continued, is through travel agents reaching a younger demographic through traditional methods.
“We need to engage the younger generation, but also consider what the future cruise client will look like, which is something we do not currently know,” she continued.
Brands such as Uber and Google have recently rolled out in-house travel operations, which Sergeant believes could be the catalyst for a number of other global firms to follow suit.
Communication the ‘key’ to success
CLIA’s Harmer then joined a panel session with P&O Cruises’ Ruth Venn, InteleTravel UK and Ireland managing director Tricia Handley-Hughes and Riviera Travel marketing director Sarah Fowler.
The panel was united in its messaging – whatever the forthcoming Wave period holds for the industry, agents will once again be the driving force behind the industry’s sought-after good fortunes.
“It’s about communication,” Handley-Hughes offered. “We use our data well to keep repeat customers, but listening and understanding what new-to-cruise consumers are after is key to attracting new business and reaching that four million goal,” echoed Fowler.
“The relations that customers build up with the crew on board ships also helps with repeat business – so share those stories with your new clients,” Harmer advised.
“The market is big enough for a lot of players,” Venn added. “We can hit that four million target but as a sector we need to be braver in our marketing – don’t be afraid to offer a cruise to a customer who has never taken one before.”