Once the initial panic to the stock market fall stabilizes, vacationers will begin to feel less stressed, adjusted to their current economic circumstances and more comfortable to begin booking again. This will happen soon.
Over the longer period of a recession, I believe vacations (perhaps considered a luxury to previous generations) are now considered a necessity. Even in this economic slowdown, people will still be looking for something to do – just searching for a better vacation value.
This will mean:
Families who were thinking 7 day cruises will now be booking 4 or 5 day cruises (shorter cruises in-fact, might prompt higher per-day per passenger on-board spending).
But most importantly, non-cruisers who were considering a different type (more expensive/less value) of vacation may now consider a cruise.
Where else can you find for as little as $100 per person per night?
Breakfast, lunch and a lobster tail sit down dinner – every day
Nightly Vegas style entertainment
Hotel room accommodations
Travel to exotic destinations
Casino, shopping etc. etc.,
No doubt, the oncoming recession is serious. Cruise lines earnings per share will be impacted. To keep prices low and cabins filled cruise lines will make:
additional expansions to local ports of call (further reducing consumer's travel costs)
more pricing segregation on ships – meaning less access to fewer included amenities for lower priced berths.
fewer all-inclusive amenities overall and more charges for on-board services.
My point is the recession may actually stimulate some non-cruisers to try one for the first time due to the value. Over the long term, this would further expand the market and positioning cruise lines for even more success in the future. To make this happen during these rough economic times, cruise lines must not back-off promotions, advertising the worry free escapism and value cruises offer.
The chart to the left shows the percentage of cruisers who use the Internet to contact a travel agent. I saw Internet growth figures like these in the late 1990's for usage of the Internet for news. Today the number is well past 70%.
Travel agents and cruise lines also need to avoid what airlines fell victim to: online searching for tickets helped to create a commodity like lowest price war. In fact, travelers already most frequently believe that the best prices can be found on the Internet (51%) and the assumption is even higher among non-cruiser vacationers (59%). Continued branding and building of distinctive ships and activities will be paramount to communicate it's The Line you choose for the journey, not just a transportation vehicle to sample destinations you are likely to visit again. (Side note: 80% of cruisers agree that cruise vacations are a good way to sample destinations they may wish to visit again. Click here to learn more on topic.)
Since this online booking behavior is most typical with newer and younger cruisers (the contemporary segment) it represents tremendous opportunity for growth. While Travel - Ground/Cruise accounts for 6% of all web traffic, or 11 million unique visitors, the dominant share of online traffic between the big three Cruise Lines is still very much anybody's game. See CruiseSearch for more. Whoever can do it best will capture a larger share of the online cruise booking market. The opportunity could be in integrating service functionality into the website - only 17% see websites and online travel retailers as providing the best service.
Here are some other Internet related cruise research facts:
When choosing vacations, cruisers are influenced by multiple sources, especially destination web sites (39%) and cruise websites (28%).
Cruisers plan trips well in advance (5.6 months) compared to non-cruisers (4.9 months) - giving them plenty of time and reasons to go online.
Who could benefit from this web site? Almost anyone interested in marketing and research. Sustainable growth and development of consumer markets is a delicate balance of both art and science. But more than that, it is a systematic process of identifying and maximizing business potential by meeting consumers conscious and subconscious needs. That systematic process can be applied over and over for any industry.
The cruise industry itself is vastly larger than just the ships we observe in ports of call. It includes: