We ask the experts to discuss the industry’s most pressing issues – converting new-to-cruisers, environmental sustainability and attracting younger customers.
We believe that the mid-term challenges will be heightened environmental requirements, port infrastructure development and the sourcing of skilled crew. Global cruise capacity is projected to exceed 375 cruise ships within the next seven years, fuelled by the insatiable appetite for new builds. During this period, over 225,000 lower beds will enter the marketplace to help service the growing demand from the emerging Asian markets, with the average new build capacity from the top six global cruise groups exceeding 3,500 passengers. The main players believe that market penetration levels in the main and emerging markets indicate that these increased supply levels can be serviced, and these optimistic growth figures are of course great news for the travel trade and consumer. Geopolitical, terrorism and extreme weather will also continue to provide challenges. Cruise tourism growth needs to be environmentally sustainable supported by adequate port infrastructure, especially with some new ships scheduled to carry over 6,000 passengers and 3,000 crew members.
One of the major challenges for river cruise operators is how to keep the river concept appealing, as well as making it exciting for new markets.
How do we attract the younger generations to our products? With so much choice in the cruise industry, be it river or ocean, standing out from the crowd continues to be challenging. We know that the younger generations do not always seem to have as much time to dedicate to longer holidays, or necessarily the money. Therefore, those operators who are targeting a younger audience need to be innovative and flexible with their products.
The biggest issue is the perennial one of encouraging those who are yet to cruise to take their first step. There are still the common misconceptions to overcome and our challenge continues to be sharing the breadth of product offering available, the range of experiences and the things that can be done on board and ashore.
I still talk to people who say they will cruise when they are older or when they retire – we should encourage them to take that step now so that they don’t regret it later! River cruise should be put forward as an option to first-timers and not just left to be suggested to past ocean cruisers. It is much more accessible in terms of overcoming the concerns about being far out at sea all the time, there is no risk of seasickness, and it might be less off-putting for those worried about the “holiday camp” atmosphere they mistakenly envisage on a large ocean liner. If we keep making all the right noises we will eventually overcome this industry issue.