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Travel Review - Cruise insights & trends: Buoyancy in the market

Travel Monthly Review Show May: Cruise Insights & Trends

In this month's Travel Review Show, we delve into the dynamic world of travel, with a special focus on the burgeoning cruise sector. We gather our regular panel of experts and special guests to discuss the latest industry news and developments that shape the future of travel.

Cultural Journeys and Upcoming Adventures

Our panellist Clare Steiner regales us with tales from her recent trip to Amsterdam, painting a vivid picture of the city's cultural attractions and the efficiency of its public transport. The arrival of spring brings with it a sense of excitement and wanderlust among our panellists, as James Clarke eagerly anticipates his travels to New York and Southampton, and Will Plummer reflects on his recent work trips to Boston and London. Their shared enthusiasm for exploring scenic locations is a testament to the joy of discovery that travel brings.

Advancements in Leisure Technology

Cressida Sergeant from Travel Tech joins us as a special guest to shed light on the company's innovative approach to leisure technology, particularly within the cruise industry. Emphasising the importance of a remote-first strategy, Cressida highlights how crucial face-to-face interactions remain for their global team. A significant part of the conversation is dedicated to the support of women in the workplace, especially in facilitating their return from maternity leave and addressing the gender pay gap—a critical issue within the industry.

The Cruise Industry's Thriving Pulse

Andy Harmer, Managing Director of CLIA UK and Ireland, provides us with an insightful overview of the cruise industry's growth in 2023. He shares encouraging data, including the rise in first-time cruisers and the sector's sustained expansion. Andy attributes this success to the value proposition of cruise holidays, the inclusivity they offer, and the continuous investment in new ships and experiences.

A New Era of Exploration Cruising

Our discussion ventures into the realm of exploration destinations, with Clare Steiner and Andy Harmer noting the significant uptick in passenger numbers to remote areas like the Arctic, Antarctica, and the Galapagos. This surge in interest is closely linked to the industry's investment in ships capable of navigating these unique destinations, marking a new era of expedition cruising.

Attracting a Younger Demographic

The cruise industry is witnessing a shift in demographics, with a slight decrease in the average age of cruisers. This is a result of the industry's efforts to attract younger couples and families by offering ships with more entertainment options, dining varieties, and family-friendly facilities. The panellists concur that the industry is now more equipped than ever to cater to a diverse range of preferences.

The Rise of Multi-Generational Travel

The popularity of multi-generational group travel is another focal point of our conversation. Cruises offer a unique opportunity for families to enjoy a variety of activities while creating shared memories, catering to different age groups within a single travel experience.

The Role of Agents and the Value of Cruising

James Clarke and Cressida Sergeant discuss the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the cruise industry. They emphasise the crucial role of agents in guiding customers through the myriad of cruise options to find the perfect fit. Moreover, the convenience and cost-effectiveness of cruises, when compared to traditional holidays, are highlighted as key advantages.

The All-Inclusive Appeal of Cruising

Our panellists explore the convenience and value proposition of cruising, noting the inclusion of gratuities and taxes in cruise deals, which makes it an all-inclusive and cost-effective option for travellers. With a surge in cruise sales, the need for advanced planning has become more apparent, especially for the increasingly popular multi-generational cruises.

Changing Perceptions and the Solo Traveller

We also touch upon the changing perceptions of cruising, with a growing number of deals catering to solo travellers. Our panelists share their personal cruise experiences and the types of cruises they aspire to embark on in the future.

The UK Cruise Boom

Ellie Fowler provides insights into the rising demand for cruises among families and younger demographics. The popularity of UK cruises and the convenience of departing from local ports like Southampton are discussed as key factors in avoiding the hassles associated with airports.

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Programme Notes

This episode has been automatically transcribed by AI, please excuse any typos or grammatical errors

Ryan Haynes (00:00:04) - Hello and welcome to Travel Monthly Review Show, May 2024 with our expert panel Clare Steiner, Will Plummer and James Clarke with a special guest this episode Cressida Sergeant from Traveltek. In this episode, we'll be deep-diving into the cruise sector. The latest industry news and developments, opportunities and challenges for the sector. The latest insights and trends from Andy Harmer at CLIA. A travel agent’s perspective, with Ellie Fowler from the Travel Business. And of course, we cannot end the show without a quick quiz. I'm your host, Ryan Haynes. Let's get on with the show.

Ryan Haynes (00:01:00) - Hello. Welcome back. Clare Steiner. So over to you first. You were in Amsterdam. How was the party? How did it all go? The hen party.

Claire Steiner (00:01:07) - Haha, you know, it was as I predicted, it was relatively sensible for a hen party. But we had a lovely time despite the weather because it did rain most of the time.

Claire Steiner (00:01:15) - But, of course, Amsterdam is fantastic for being able to travel around the public transport. That was brilliant. And we did all sorts of things, like spend ages at the Bright Museum looking at some of the old masters. And a highlight for me was Anne Frank's house, which I just found very moving. And, and I'm glad I've done that. That's been on my bucket list for a while, so had a great time. but yes, back now and happy that the sunshine is finally here.

Ryan Haynes (00:01:39) - Lovely to have you, Miss Claire Steiner Steiner, I thank you very much for joining us again. And over to James Clark. Hello. Welcome back.

James Clarke (00:01:48) - Hello, Ryan, hello, Claire. Yeah, great to be back. I hope you all well. yeah, it's been fairly, fairly quiet for a few weeks. For me, I'm usually the one telling everyone where I've been and what I've been up to. It's been, it's been quite nice to spend some time in the office and catch up with the guys.

James Clarke (00:02:03) - and, yes, a busy few weeks now ahead. I'm off to New York tomorrow, working out of our New York office for a week, and then I'm back. And then it's CLIA the confidence in Southampton. So busy a few weeks ahead.

Ryan Haynes (00:02:15) - Oh, go go go on over to Will. Hi welcome back Will, how's your week been?

Will Plummer (00:02:20) - Hey, Ryan. Hey, Claire. Hey, James. Yeah, very good actually. It's come around very quickly. work trip to Boston, US, Barclays Travel Forum in London yesterday, and. Yeah, just head down and work away, but all good. And as Claire says, great to see the sun finally shining in the UK because it's a different place when it is.

Ryan Haynes (00:02:42) - Absolutely. the spring has sprung. I've been to the Brecon Beacons and I'm looking forward to our next long bank holiday. I'm heading up to Snowdonia. don't ask me what the name is in Welsh, because I really still can't pronounce it, but, over to introduce our guest panellist.

Ryan Haynes (00:02:58) - It's great to have you here. Cressida Sargeant, a CCO at Traveltek. Thank you for joining us today. so, how are things going with yourself?

Cressida Sergeant (00:03:08) - Yeah. Hi, Brian. So thanks very much for inviting me today. Great to be here. yeah. All good. similar to the guys on the call, I've had a busy week. Just got back from Madrid, so we did a a sales conference over there. flew some of our team over from Canada and Australia. So we all got to spend some time together. And the highlight of the week was actually, we all learned to make, make tapas. So we did a cookery course together last week, which was great fun.

Ryan Haynes (00:03:31) - Excellent, fantastic. Are you doing a lot more of this now within the business, sort of bringing your team together in remote locations and doing some of these experiences as well?

Cressida Sergeant (00:03:40) - Yeah, absolutely. So we're a remote-first company. So we we probably cover about seven countries across the globe and where 24 over seven as a company because we have customers all over the world.

Cressida Sergeant (00:03:50) - but yeah, really important that we make sure that we make time for face-to-face. So where our head office is in Glasgow, we got all our our team in a few weeks ago, we did a crazy golf session with everyone, and got people from across the UK and Europe to travel in. But yeah, that was just the sales team specifically last week in Madrid. But it was good.

Ryan Haynes (00:04:07) - How fantastic. So tell us a little bit about Traveltek.

Cressida Sergeant (00:04:11) - Yeah. So Traveltek. we've been going for 25 years. we are a leisure technology specialist. we run across multiple products. So we are in the flight hotel, transfers, and car hire business. But I guess we are synonymous with the cruise industry. That's how we're well known. and we have market-leading tech when it comes to desktop solutions for agents. And we also have an API as well, which will. Those sound very technical. That effectively means we bring all of the data from the cruise lines together into a single, single aggregated API, that a number of customers across the globe utilize.

Ryan Haynes (00:04:48) - And does that mean you're going to be going to glamorous Southampton for the CLIA Convention as well?

Cressida Sergeant (00:04:53) - I'm not personally, but some of the team members will be down there. but I'm actually hoping to go over to Sydney, so I've definitely bagged the better option when it comes to clear this year. So I'll be heading over there. and we try and make sure that we go to as many clear events, over the year as we can.

Ryan Haynes (00:05:09) - This is all about cruise. So we're going to be drawing on your specialist knowledge as well as the rest of the panel, as we dive a little bit deeper into what's happening and evolving in that marketplace. But first I thought I'd pick up some industry news.

Ryan Haynes (00:05:26) - So gender pay gap was eliminated for most travel industry roles. is this a bit of an exaggeration or is it a reality? The gender pay gap in the travel industry has been eliminated for most roles, but stark differences remain at the top levels. Research from CNM Travel Recruitment found that the gender pay gap overall marginally narrowed in 2023, with the typical female working in travel taking home 11.2% less than their male equivalent last year, compared to 11.5% in 2022.

Ryan Haynes (00:05:59) - Is this a good thing? is this actually working towards full equality? Claire, did you see this story here?

Claire Steiner (00:06:07) - Listen, it's a step in the right direction. I'm not going to deny that. It's always good to see progress, but it's still not enough. 11%. There should be 0%. Right? So that for me is one issue, particularly since at a lower level at the bottom of the pyramid, if you like, we tend to be 60 or 70% female. So actually the fact that the majority of our younger staff are women and are still earning less than their counterparts is just so wrong. So we need to do better. And and we have to do better. So progress yes, is always good to see. I also think there needs to be a little bit of, I guess sort of context put into the that those senior level roles as well because. We still don't. I mean, one, how many women actually were going for those jobs for a start?

Claire Steiner (00:06:50) - And so there needs to be a little bit of context there as well. And Cressida and I have had conversations about this in the past. And Cressida is a fantastic advocate for equal pay. So I'm going to hand it over to her in a second to say what they do at travel Tax. It's brilliant. But I've said it before, you know, we need to see more women coming through the ranks. We are starting to see it. And I think, you know that we will over the years see more progression from women. Cruise actually is a great sector where we do see women at that C-suite level who are earning the equivalent or definitely should be earning the equivalent of their male counterparts. So more to be done, but it's always good to see a little bit of progress.

Ryan Haynes (00:07:27) - How about you then, Cressida? I mean, what do you see from a woman in the sector, a C-level executive yourself as well? you know, why is there still such a difference? You know, what is the justification for that difference? And what are you doing at Traveltek to try to reduce that difference?

Cressida Sergeant (00:07:43) - Well, first of all, I still think that it's amazing in 2024 that we're still having this exact same conversation.

Cressida Sergeant (00:07:50) - and I and I find it incredible that it's even on our agenda. interestingly, the FFT just released something a couple of days ago where they actually said in the UK holistically, there is now a 9% gender pay gap, across all industries. So actually, I think travel probably does outpace that. But Claire's point there around context is really important here because it's not about the two and the 3% at a lower level. Of course, we need to address that, but it's more the fact that when you look at it's the 40 plus and I'm talking age there, that's where the gap really starts to open. And the challenge for me is, you know, women have a lot of women have children. They come out of the industry at that stage. I then think we don't do a good enough job of getting women back in at that level. And I genuinely don't just think that that's a company problem. I also look to the government here and I think, well, actually, when I think back to when I had my first child statutory pay, you know, so you're getting 13 weeks of you know, not much 90%.

Cressida Sergeant (00:08:50) - And then you go down to, I think £120 a week. How do people live on that? They don't have to come back to work. But then as the mum, you're constantly the one who's doing that juggling with nursery drop-offs, and pickups. The kids are always sick at that stage. So then I think as a company, that's really difficult because you're trying to give that flexibility. And I've definitely been on the, the end of definite bias feedback where people think, well, just because you've then had a baby, you don't have any ambition about you and you don't want to go through the ranks. so I think there are systematic barriers there with the bias that then exists. I also think then there is a lack of women above you that can really kind of pull you through and give you that flexibility that you need for those few years in your life. And unless you've actually done that jump, it's very difficult to find people who understand how hard those challenges are. And I think gives you that flexibility and support.

Cressida Sergeant (00:09:41) - And that's one of the things that Traveltek, it's not just about the pay, but it's about making sure that when women do come back from maternity leave, they do get that support. I remember being thrown in on day one. I worked for a FTSE 250 company. They won after seven months off. Right, Cressida, we need to make a decision about whether we're going to spend on this promotion. I'm thinking I can't even turn my computer on today, let alone make those decisions. So that's the challenge. I think businesses are not very good at bringing people back in after they've been on the mat. Leave it. Yes, of course, it is about the pay, but it's also about actually addressing the holistic issue here because that is why we have such a problem at that mid-level. And if you don't fix it at mid-level, you stand no chance at fixing it at a senior level and you stand zero chance at fixing it a board level.

Ryan Haynes (00:10:25) - Yeah. No, I completely see that.

Ryan Haynes (00:10:28) - And obviously as you say, with with women needing to juggle so many things, including family life with such young children, it is a challenge to re-enter the workplace. And there's so much to catch up on after so long away. It's bad enough for some of us for a long weekend. I certainly suffered dismay with the public holidays, let alone being off for seven months. But, thanks for those contributions there, Clare and Cressida. And, you know, if anybody out there would like to contribute what they're potentially doing in regards to their gender pay gap, we'd love to hear from you. So please email us the team at Travel Market Life. Coming up next. we're going to be looking deep into the crew sector.

Ryan Haynes (00:11:09) - So joining me now is Andy Harmer, managing director of CLIA UK and Ireland. Thanks for joining us. Now you release some really fascinating data into the cruise industry and how that's been evolving really over the last year particularly how that's been growing overall for the sector.

Ryan Haynes (00:11:25) - And what is particularly interesting is the total number of cruises that I've taken has risen from 1.7 million inches in 2022 to 2.3 million inches in 2023. what does this mean for the industry and what are we expecting from 24?

Andy Harmer (00:11:40) - Yeah, we we so are. So our data looks back on the previous year. So this is 2023 data. And what we do is we collect all of that data directly from the cruise line so that we can have that verified. And it's it's I think it summarises what we all felt 2023 was like, which was a bit of a moment for the cruise industry. So, you know, our recovery from our years of, of, Covid was quicker than we thought. we knew that the British public loved to take a cruise holiday and that they would be keen to get on board as quickly as possible again, once we restarted operations. I think we have seen a significant increase in the number of people who are trying a cruise for the first time, and that's reflected in those figures. So not only is it a big increase in 2022, but it's also a big increase in our last biggest year, which was 2019 when we were just around the 2 million figure.

Andy Harmer (00:12:35) - and some of that is because we're capacity-led. So actually, we've seen an increase in the number of ships being launched over the last three years, but that's managed growth of about 3.4% each year. but a lot of it is the fact that the British and Irish are trying a cruise for the first time. And I'd love to say that's happened very quickly, but actually, it's probably been 150 years in the making in that, you know, we've always been a great nation for maritime. our interest in cruising has grown over the past 5 to 10 years, but we really have seen that rapidly increase, since 2019. and after the Covid years, and we're really enjoying that moment of people trying to cruise for the first time, because of course, most people want to have a cruise once, will cruise again. So that gives us a good opportunity and a good start for 2024 and beyond as well.

Ryan Haynes (00:13:25) - I mean, I know that 20 2021 was a pinnacle year for a cruise to be able to introduce so many new people to that sector.

Ryan Haynes (00:13:32) - And there was a bit of a fear that you might see a massive drop off. But, looking at these numbers, we are seeing that people are picking up that cruise again for a second, third or fourth time.

Andy Harmer (00:13:43) - Yeah, I think it's it looks like it's that sustained growth. And as you say, it's difficult to capture some of the trends in one year's data. But the data seems to be supporting what we're hearing, which is that from our travel agent partners particularly, who play a pivotal role in the distribution of cruise holidays. They are telling us that people are certainly switching to cruise. I think there are a number of reasons for that. I think firstly, we're perceived very much as offering great value for money. we are one of the most inclusive holiday types that you can take, and I think value and the value proposition have really grown and developed over the past couple of years. But I think secondly, people people try to cruise maybe in the summer of 2021 when there were very few other options.

Andy Harmer (00:14:28) - So we had lots of ships sailing around the UK waters in summer 21. And so I think that attracted an audience that maybe we wouldn't have reached before. but then we've had that ongoing investment by the cruise industry and new ships and new features, new dining, new entertainment, etc. across their existing fleet. That really means that we've been listening to our customers. We've been listening to the guest's feedback. We've created holidays that are incredibly desirable, taking people to amazing places, and all at great value for money. So I think as a value proposition and as a holiday choice, we've certainly seen in 2023 figures that that that message is getting through and that we're attracting a record audience.

Ryan Haynes (00:15:11) - Now let's deep dive into some of the other numbers that you've got here. And this is really around sort of the booking patterns and interest of your cruises to date that exploration destinations, saw a significant increase, 53% in passenger numbers. Can you tell me what exploration destinations are and what is this telling us about the market at the moment?

Andy Harmer (00:15:32) - Yeah, it's a really interesting start actually.

Andy Harmer (00:15:34) - So we knew that we'd seen lots of interest in expedition growing. And I think people are looking at bucket list destinations. They're looking at places that maybe they thought that they would like to travel to, but they've now made the decision that they will travel to expedition cruising is one of those holiday choices where we take guests to the Arctic, to Antarctica, to places like the Galapagos, to Borneo, to the Kimberley region of Australia, etc. So these are incredible places. and we have genuinely seen an interest in demand. That. But we've also seen, again, investment by the cruise industry in ships that can take our guests there. And there are certain types of ships. But that investment means that we now have that increased capacity to take people there. So I think we are therefore seeing that translate into numbers. those figures don't tell the total expedition story, because actually expedition ships can go to places that aren't necessarily aligned with expedition cruising. So actually some of them sail in Europe, some of them are in places like Scotland, for example, which won't show up in those figures.

Andy Harmer (00:16:39) - But we have seen that interest. And I think it's it's interest that comes from the destinations themselves, the wildlife, the scenery, that sense of being off the beaten track, but also that sense of travelling with very like-minded people, which again has always been an appeal of cruising. So these ships generally take around 200 to 300 guests. So they're smaller. they have a smaller guest number on board. And as I say, like-minded people travel to amazing places. And that's that's the increase that we've seen.

Ryan Haynes (00:17:08) - Now, one of the other interesting aspects is the demographics. Now, we know the boomer generation has a lot of disposable income. They're looking at a lot more focus on cruises and being able to tick off a lot of these bucket list destinations. However, the age of cruises is dropping from 55.1 years to 56.1. while it is just a year, is it a big thing for the industry? What does it mean in the grand scheme of things?

Andy Harmer (00:17:35) - And it is a big thing, but it is a big thing for the industry.

Andy Harmer (00:17:38) - So down to one of its lowest levels for as long as I can remember, actually. And I think it reflects the fact that, again, the cruise industry has focused on increasing the demographics that would be interested in taking a cruise holiday. so one of the changes that we've seen over the past ten years in shipbuilding is that we've been able to build slightly bigger ships if we want to. and that allows the cruise lines to then put on board those ships more entertainment venues, more dining, more activities, and more family facilities. So, at certain types of years on certain types of ships, they will attract families and younger cruisers. we have said for the past couple of years that there is a cruise for everyone. And I think this, this development, this opportunity to take families and younger couples onto our cruisers would change slightly the demographic of Brits who take a cruise. so it is it is, as you say, just one year and it does bring it down slightly, but I think it does reflect the ability of the industry to attract younger couples and families.

Andy Harmer (00:18:38) - But I think there's slightly more to it than that, in that the industry actually is geared up, regardless of age, for everybody. and so actually in the UK, we have one of the oldest average age of cruisers in the world. we have a brand specifically for people over 50 for example that so so there is that mix. But I think we'll see that continue to ebb and flow. But actually, you know, we have an ageing population in the UK. We may not see that average age come down very much in the next few years, but I think it does reflect that slight shift in our appeal.

Ryan Haynes (00:19:12) - I mean, this is the average age. So you've got a lot older and people who are a lot younger, which is obviously, as you say, fantastic. Even if the age is getting the population's age is getting older for as long I guess this average age doesn't change much. You are covering a wider span of demographics, which is very exciting. And I guess tapping into that and you do sort of like adhere to this.

Ryan Haynes (00:19:35) - Just a mention, you did refer to this just now about the ship builds and how that's diversification. Diversifying that 28% of cruisers are part of this larger multi-generation group. And we're seeing much more of a sort of group travel across generations now. And from your research that, three or more age categories are part of those multi-generational groups, why is it becoming popular? And you know, what particular developments that are really attracting the younger generations?

Andy Harmer (00:20:06) - Yeah, it's a great question, actually. We saw that change in, appeal to multi-generational groups sort of in 2022, and we wondered whether it would be temporary. We wondered whether that was a reflection of the fact that for a couple of years, we weren't able to travel or spend as much time as we would want with our wider family. So therefore that may have led to everyone cruising together in multi-generational groups in 2022. But actually, we've seen that even strengthen further in 2023. and I think, yes, as you say, some of that refers to the fact that the cruise industry now appeals to multi-age groups that appeal to a much wider demographic.

Andy Harmer (00:20:43) - And I think the unique thing about the cruise industry and the cruise holiday is that during the day, people can go off safely on the ship and do their own thing. and then they can come together for lunch and dinner, talk about their day, have an evening or an afternoon together, and really share the moment while still having the opportunity to create the holiday that they want. The same is true in destinations. So when the ship is in port again, we have family. Excursions, or we have excursions that would appeal to different age groups. Or of course, the guests can debug and explore as a group themselves. So I think much of it is down to that product development. I also think, you know, we talk a lot about age, but actually one of the shifts we've seen separate to age is actually the mentality of our guests. Because even if you're an older guest, actually that spirit of adventure, that spirit, to go to multiple destinations, to do lots of different things, to go off the beaten track continues to be a thing that we know our guests like to do.

Andy Harmer (00:21:41) - And I think, again, that helps us to appeal to that wider demographic.

Ryan Haynes (00:21:46) - So a lot of juicy nuggets going on there from that research. And I know, James, you guys at Travelzoo were involved in part of that. And you know what was particularly exciting and interesting for you guys?

James Clarke (00:21:59) - So it was very it's nice to hear and reflect upon some of the points that we spoke about on the day. But so from my perspective, it was twofold. It was to hear and work with CLIA on sharing all their data from 2023 and us in partnership with CLIA and MMG y, to conduct some research into particularly new to cruise. But I think the two biggest points that are really important when we consider the UK cruise market is their order book for this year. So, you know, they've got eight ships launching in Europe this year, particularly in the UK. And two of those are very heavy large lower berth ships. You've got the Sun Princess which is over 4000.

James Clarke (00:22:44) - You've got the Royal Caribbean Ship that's over 5700. So the additional capacity that's been entered, just into kind of like the UK with the ships that we're operating around, that's over 22, 23,000, cabins, lower berths that need to be filled. And a lot of these itineraries from these ships will be operating in and around Europe and exUK. So there's a lot of capacity being entered into the market. And beyond that, between 2024 and 2028, there are 34 new ships, hitting our shores. So capacity is going to be one of probably the opportunities facing all of these cruise partners. But at the same time, there's a challenge there and that capacity ultimately needs to be filled. How are they going to fill it? As Andy said, it's about those multi-gens. It's about bringing new to cruise over and attracting a much younger, audience into the cruise because they, as Andy quite rightly said, if you can get them in at a younger age, they're going to repeat the cruise because the experience is so wonderful.

Ryan Haynes (00:23:45) - Now, Cressida, just before we came on there, you were talking about the fall in average age. does that correlate with what you're seeing and their fall of age there? It CLIA’s, research.

Cressida Sergeant (00:23:57) - Yeah. So actually, last year, through the Traveltek platform, the average age of a cruiser was 48, which we processed last year. and I think that what was quite evident to me is, that I've been at Traveltek for nearly six years now. In the last couple of years, so many of our customers who obviously are travel agents and OTAs, either are looking at cruises as a strategic pillar of growth within their business, or also companies that have never sold cruises looking to then add cruise as an additional product. So again, we've seen it as the largest growth area within the travel industry over the last couple of years. And I think it's the fact that Claire has said they need to attract 4 million new to cruises. They need to try and find new avenues and new brands to attract those, new to cruise, customers.

Ryan Haynes (00:24:45) - And do you see that as a challenge to that quantity of people? Because that's quite a volume, isn't it, to try to bring in and, is there the product there that could actually tempt people away from their flying flop?

Cressida Sergeant (00:24:58) - Yeah. I mean, it's a huge amount, isn't it? They say over the next few years it's going to be between 19 and 43% capacity increase over the next five years in cruise. That's a significant debut to touch on some of those numbers there. I actually think the cruise industry has thought outside the box on this one. You know, you've seen sponsorship at the BAFTAs. you've seen the likes of Royal Caribbean taking on Fortnite, which I thought was really innovative of them, of creating fortnight characters on cruise ships, which again appeal to a younger audience. And I also think they've done a wonderful job the cruise industry has really created, that PR and that above-the-line noise here as well. you can't you can't fail to have missed Messi in Miami. Obviously, I've got two kids that are very into football, so I hear all about this, but I think that, again was something that then my kids were like, oh, we should we should go on one of those cruise ships, mum.

Cressida Sergeant (00:25:47) - And I think that that again is very clever because, you know, when it comes to booking family holidays, you know. Yes, of course, depends on how your family makes your booking. But the kids do have a say on what you want to do. And I absolutely see that multi-generation being a brilliant idea as well for taking the grandkids and the parents away. It's an ideal type of holiday, really, that people can choose what they want to do because there are. So many activities and so many different stops. You don't have to disembark. You can stay on and take advantage of that. And I think the innovation that the cruise industry has done, not only in attracting new people but also with the innovation on the cruise ships, I think has been stunning the last few years.

Ryan Haynes (00:26:22) - I mean, there's been quite a few news reports that I've collected over the last couple of months, and a really interesting one being, you know, almost half of the luxury cruise passengers are expecting to spend more.

Ryan Haynes (00:26:33) - 43% say their outlay will increase this year. that was from the specialist agency Panache Cruises. So, I guess there's that there's that there's that taste for it. and then people wanted to go that bit further, with their experience of cruise and the diversity of products, but then also at the same time, saw that there had been an increase in the popularity of shorter cruises of 2 to 6 nights. So it does sound like there's quite an array of products. how can agents handle such, a plethora of options there for their customers? And, you know, I mean, a lot of it is sold through agents, isn't it? So, what what's what are the ways in which, agents can have access to this product and actually really help their customers find the right product for them?

Cressida Sergeant (00:27:27) - Yeah, I mean, I think Andy touched Disney on the fact that there's a cruise for everyone. And I think that that's a that's a great statement because there absolutely is. And I think plenty of the cruise lines, especially in the Mediterranean, offer brilliant, shorter itineraries where you fly into some of the European ports.

Cressida Sergeant (00:27:42) - So you know, your Barcelona's and your Genoa's, and you can go and do those, those short durations, some fabulous itineraries around the Greek islands as well. So it's great for people if they want to do 3 or 4 nights, and then they also want to maybe combine it, you know, the traditional kind of, you know, beach and cruise is is a good option for people to be able to do. so again, I think there is something for everyone. We've definitely seen a lot of new entrants into the luxury end of the market as well over the last few years. I genuinely think we people kind of talk about recession looming. That is a part of the market that I don't think will be affected by any of those economic downturns. So I believe that, again, that side of the market will continue to grow. but I think if you look across the cruise landscape, there absolutely is something for everyone. But because it is a larger ticket item, I think the trade has a huge part to play here because it's so important that people get on the right cruise ship, and that's where you need somebody who can actually educate.

Cressida Sergeant (00:28:38) - And again, I think Claire and the industry have done a great job of getting agents onto the cruise ships. They can experience this. And again, I think it's the type of holiday where, yes, we are starting to see more people ask around online cruises. And that's definitely been a technical growth that we've seen over the last year or so. But I think we are some way off yet on people just going on inputting credit card details and buying cruises in the same way they do fly and flop holidays at the moment.

Ryan Haynes (00:29:04) - James, what are you seeing from that perspective then of travellers looking to book, and what sort of bookings that they're going for because you did, you mentioned that there's going to be a lot of deals, there's going to be overcapacity. Is this going to undervalue some of the some of the products that are on the market?

James Clarke (00:29:20) - So it's a really good question, Ryan. Actually, when I was up on stage, it was one of the questions that was asked of me around value pointed out in the research that we, shared with everyone at Clio at our breakfast.

James Clarke (00:29:34) - And the question was around, but, you know, cruises already show great value. And I said, I don't think this is referring to the monetary side of cruising, because actually, cruises do offer fantastic value for holidays. And when you compare it, particularly in average cost per night, cruises are lower and cheaper than the average holiday. So there is that side there. But one of the challenges, which I feel that cruise can tackle and can tackle very well is the undersold convenience of cruising. So I gave the example to the room of okay, so you're a family of four and you think booking a flight, going abroad and doing a weekly speech break is the standard thing that you do. So you book it, but then you forget that you've got to get to the airport three hours before, and you have all the money at parking at the airport, then the three hours at the airport, then you may even get delayed, you know, have those problems and stress. If you've got two kids or three kids nagging at you, then you've got you get there, and then you've got your chance for it.

James Clarke (00:30:29) - Could be an hour, could be two to the hotel. You've got your hotel and you get your bill at the end. And then you've got the same return journey on the way back. This is why always everyone's more excited before they go. And obviously, they're low on the return. Now compare that to the journey of potentially travelling to Southampton onboarding and being on board a ship and enjoying the entertainment or the activities on board within a few hours. And now that cruising is becoming more all-inclusive and things like gratuities and some of the stigmas that cruise is had previously are being eradicated is making it a completely great value option from start to finish. What I shared with everyone on that day was that understood. Convenience is probably their biggest opportunity, not just for the new to cruise, but also probably for the younger generation on those really fun cruises to say, hey, like, you don't have to go to the airport and do this, you can just jump straight on and, you know, basically get the party started.

Ryan Haynes (00:31:27) - Actually, that's an interesting point. So I do remember this is pre-pandemic, you know, about the cost of cruise really came down to all the tips and service charges and all that came down. What are the cruise lines actually doing then? to, to, to minimise that. at the moment already encompassing it within their sales products. What are they doing there?

James Clarke (00:31:48) - It depends on the line that you're booking with. But a vast majority of cruise operators now in their deals gratuities will be included. All taxes and gratuities will be included. So the price you see is the price that you're generally paying. And if you're on an all-inclusive cruise with gratuities and taxes included, then literally there is not an extra penny to pay unless you start buying ad hoc, experiences or onboard, you know, kind of extras.

Ryan Haynes (00:32:19) - I mean, it's fascinating, particularly how it helps, really, a lot of travel agents, not just travel, said that to sales. Sales surged during January by 64% year on year, which is just phenomenal.

Ryan Haynes (00:32:32) - And I've heard of some agents not just looking for 2024 or 2025, but now into 2026. So, for some of the products that some people want, particularly if they're going for multi-group, multi-generational they actually need to be thinking and planning for so much farther in advance to make sure that they're the product that they want is actually available. and, I guess that some of these monetary, generational cruise ships there aren't, you know, they're not sort of there aren't a huge number of those out there that actually cater for that full market, are there that, you know, people do need to think much more cleverly about when they're going and, and, and what they want, for their holidays.

Cressida Sergeant (00:33:12) - Yeah. I mean, I think there are plenty of companies out there that will cater for the multi-generation. But I think interestingly, what we've seen is certainly you know post the big C, we've seen a lot more people book further out on a cruise.

Cressida Sergeant (00:33:26) - So exactly that we're seeing people book you know three years in advance, especially for particular destinations like the expedition cruises. Alaska again is another one that is particularly popular. And again certain seasons that people want to travel in. So we definitely are seeing bookings much further out. One, of course, of the big challenges there, and that's why it's beneficial to book with an agent when it comes to these further up bookings, is that you can't get the air to match up. So that's the challenge for a lot of, customers wanting to do that. So that is the benefit of obviously booking with an agent that will then look after you.

Ryan Haynes (00:33:57) - that's absolutely fantastic. I mean, I've looked at some of those expedition cruises, and I think I've made a long list of those that I want to do. So I don't even know where to start. I've only ever been on one cruise myself, and that was thanks to the Institute of Travel and Tourism. which actually took us there at their annual conference a couple of years ago.

Ryan Haynes (00:34:15) - So I, I, sailed the high seas of the English Channel, which was wonderful. And just being on a boat, like, that size was just incredible. And Claire Steiner, you're obviously there. you're with us, at that, at that event. And have you been on other cruises? Is there a particular cruise that you've enjoyed?

Claire Steiner (00:34:34) - Do you know what that was my first time actually doing a proper cruise like you, Ryan? And it was an interesting experience, wasn't it, because it was that kind of being let out of, you know, after After the Big Sea, but, I actually have been to a few onboard cruise ships. My father worked in Bermuda very luckily for a few years, about 30 years ago, and he often got invited onto these sorts of cruise ships when they came in. And that was quite eye-opening for me because that was a very different, demographic. I won't say any more than that, but that was quite opening and slightly put me off cruising.

Claire Steiner (00:35:05) - But I think, you know, just to add into everything that everyone was saying, I think, yes, multi-generational. We know multi-generational travel has been big in the last few years, but for me and friends of mine, actually solo travel, so particularly for women, I think I've got a number of friends and my mother is one of them now included, that actually have been converted to cruise as a way of solo travelling. because there's a protection there. You feel safer there. also, you know, that slow travel, you know, James alluded to that getting to the airport, you know, 300 suitcases. My mom's off to Japan. And actually, the thought for her and she's doing a cruise around Japan is she doesn't have to pack in every day to move to somewhere else. You can just get off the cruise ship, go and do it, and get back into bed. So for someone who is in the older demographic, that boomer demographic, that's brilliant for her and the solo side, I would say also, though from the solo side, what she's seen and she's a recent convert to cruises is there are more deals for solo travellers now.

Claire Steiner (00:36:01) - So before you used to have to pay quite high, extras for solo cabins and actually I think the cruise ships have again seen the opportunity and are giving these sorts of deals so that, you know, people who do want to travel on their own aren't having to pay an additional huge fee, for the privilege of doing so. So solo travel, I think is another thing that is a benefit to cruise.

Ryan Haynes (00:36:24) - I mean, one of the other trends is I say with diversification, but also themed The Big Nude Boat is launching next year. Yes, in partnership between Norwegian Cruise Line and Bare Necessities, a specialist nude cruise travel company. Well, I was thinking you and your wife might want to go away next year to celebrate the anniversary.

Will Plummer (00:36:45) - I will certainly put it to her later. there may be some reluctance from certain parties. Let's just put it like that. So thank you for putting me on the spot also. Right.

Ryan Haynes (00:36:57) - always willing to, what about your cruise experience, then?

Will Plummer (00:37:02) - Look, I'll be honest, I am a complete landlubber.

Will Plummer (00:37:05) - I have spent the night on a cruise ship very safely tied up at Tilbury, and, you know, look, the service I think is fantastic. And I think what the cruise ships are doing, the product that they're putting out is everyone's spoken about as Andy's talking about the future. I think it's fantastic. You know, it really is. You'd be surprised to know I'm slightly cynical. I'm concerned that with all this capacity that's coming into the market, can they keep that sustained growth year on year? You know, I'm not sure. In other sectors of travel, you would see that that sort of that much commitment at this stage. I think, you know, we are still seeing a real boom in the industry. And that is fantastic. But can you get that sort of 19 to 40, 40%? I think James said in terms of capacity. Where's that coming from? Can that be sustained year on year? I don't know, I hope so, I think if anyone's going to do it, crews are going to do it because they are equipped to do it.

Will Plummer (00:38:04) - You know, and everyone's spoken about the sort of initiatives they're doing. Not sure I'm going on the nude cruise, but you know Cressida talked about fortnight MSC at Formula One. So it is kind of everywhere. One question I want to ask my fellow panellists actually is when did psychology change? Because all throughout I'm going to call it Covid. You can call it the Big Sea. But all throughout the Covid cruise, as far as the travel industry was concerned, was going to die. You know, literally here are all these people and a lot of cases trapped on boats because they weren't allowed to, to, to port. and, you know, sort of a super spreader and sort of everyone was talking about cruise will never recover from this. And here we are, you know, a few years later talking about an industry that is booming, growing year on year, adding additional capacity, you know. Getting a new audience. New generation in. Where's the psychology change? Please, someone tell me.

Will Plummer (00:39:08) - Because I want that magic potion, to put into other things.

Claire Steiner (00:39:14) - Well, my personal opinion is that it's a lot of bits to do with what we saw post-Covid, which was bubble travel and we were calling it bubble travel because people felt that they were in a protective bubble when they were going out travelling. So cruise, you maybe got into your own car, you drove to the terminal, you went through the obviously the screening that we all had to do to get onto the ship, and the ships were all scrubbed clean for that week. So you were in a safe area where no one else had Covid and you weren't interacting with anyone. You know, there was there was less opportunity for Covid to get on board. I saw it also when I was in the Caribbean, just after the end of Covid, had some time out there, and actually they were still suffering as a tourist destination because the cruise ships had started coming back, but they weren't actually letting the passengers interact and go to the markets and go to the, you know, to the sort of the normal tours that they were doing and they were keeping them, again, in this protective bubble.

Claire Steiner (00:40:09) - So they were getting into a, you know, lovely, clean minivan and then going off and see the sights and come back so that, you know, that that bubble travel, I think, made people feel probably more secure as we were coming out of Covid and still feeling a little bit nervous that the bug was out there.

Ryan Haynes (00:40:26) - And one of the things I think that I also saw was that in 2021, the only real form of travel outside of the UK was on a cruise ship. You couldn't really go much further, and a lot of the cruise ships couldn't go to other countries. So they're just sailing around the UK and offering, chances for people to experience it really at such a discounted rate. It was crazy. And I remember having conversations with people in 2021, and early 2022 about how much of how much it had, the type of people going on. The boats had changed, and some of it had ruined their experience of travel because it wasn't quite the colour of people that had been on there pre-COVID.

Ryan Haynes (00:41:06) - But then at the same time, for the cruise liners, it was such an opportunity to grab, the visibility amongst a wider market share that they never had before, you know, offering, offering these, these visits on 3 or 4 days at half the rate that they would normally pay, was such a great marketing opportunity for them that that's where you got some of those repeat bookers from. So, I mean, I've been surprised, and I think going back to the fact that we're going to see much more capacity on the market, it's not too different to what we see with the hospitality or the hotel industry. You know, that where suddenly there's a whole load of new rooms and hotels are open, that just generally sees some of the old tired ones sort of leave the market. so you sort of hope that it's sort of freshening it up and making the industry better. But obviously, at the same time, we don't want certain businesses to fail. just because that there's, there's too much capacity on the market.

Ryan Haynes (00:41:59) - Well, guys, I mean, it's been great to discuss this. I'd love to get before we go from James and Cressida, your recommendations for actual cruises, what's the ones that you've enjoyed or what are you looking to experience next? I'll go first to our regular panellist, James.

James Clarke (00:42:15) - I think if I was to go on a cruise, next, my next cruise would either be the brand new, silver Ray that's coming out, which looks absolutely incredible by Silversea. that's going to be more down in, Southampton next week for the CLIA Conference. so hopefully I'll be on board to see that. But if I were to choose a route and an itinerary for me had to be an expedition cruise, I'd love to do Antarctica or Alaska. and I'm a big believer that what a cruise definitely does is it reduces and gives you that opportunity, that friction of getting to a place which you couldn't get to by air. So for me, that's where I'd be wanting to go on my next cruise.

Ryan Haynes (00:42:56) - Lovely.

Ryan Haynes (00:42:57) - And Cressida, yourself?

Cressida Sergeant (00:42:59) - Yeah. So I think, I'd love to. I'd actually like to experience the icon of the seas. I'd love to be able to take both my kids on it, I think, yeah, they'd love it because I think such a huge ship, so many facilities on board. So I think brilliant for them. And actually, it'd be great to take the parents too. So, he had some support on boards. That whole multi-generation I think would be great. but also like James, I also love the Caribbean. So the chance of getting on one or more of the luxury liners. So I've seen the images of explorer cruise ships. They look very nice. So quite fancy one of those, but clearly without the children.

Ryan Haynes (00:43:34) - Wonderful. Well, coming up next, we've got the quick quiz. but first, we're going to hear from Ellie Fowler, the director of the travel business, of which 30% of their business is cruise about what they're seeing in the market.

Ryan Haynes (00:43:50) - Hi Ellie, thanks ever so much for joining us today. So you can give us some really good insights into what's happening with the cruise business for yourself. I mean, what is the level of demand and how are you seeing this change?

Ellie Fowler (00:44:02) - Yeah. Hi, Ryan. so, yeah, we've seen a huge demand for cruises over, I would say the last 12 months in general. the demand is very varied. A lot of it is, families coming through. So that's been a big change. alongside a bit of a demand for river cruises as well. which is slower, but we're seeing a big increase in that at the moment. and yeah, just cruising in general, I think all age groups or age brackets, multigenerational families, like a lot of that is now coming through. And I think Ocean Cruise, in particular, have broken the sort of stereotype of the older demographics that are cruising. And that's been done away with, obviously with particular cruise lines. and yeah, we've seen a lot more of the, the younger market, the couples, the families.

Ellie Fowler (00:44:46) - So yeah, that's what's been the biggest thing we've noticed so far.

Ryan Haynes (00:44:50) - And what sort of destinations, what sort of, types of cruises, where are they heading to? That is the most popular.

Ellie Fowler (00:44:56) - The biggest sort of increase that we see is the UK cruises. So everything really from Southampton, obviously Bristol now with the ambassador is very strong for us because you've got so local is only about 40 minutes up the road. So really helpful. But it's funny, I know we spoke recently about obviously people not wanting to head up to London airports, but yet we'll go to Southampton for a cruise. and obviously, we're down in Wales, so, is a good two-hour run really to get to Southampton? But obviously, that's where the most trade of our cruises are as anything from, you know, taking out that flight element. And people just want that ease. They want that. Yeah. Just get straight on there. Holiday. no airports, no faffing about it. Just get straight on and yeah, be on their way.

Ellie Fowler (00:45:39) - Obviously given from Southampton. Obviously, they're not going as much for the long-haul ones. it's more so like the Norwegian Fjords. We've got a lot of the Canaries, med cruises. So yeah, anything that can be done really from an exUK now.

Ryan Haynes (00:45:54) - I mean, you've mentioned that you've got a lot of families and multi-generational groups going away on these cruises. what sort of feedback do you get from them as to sort of the types of cruises that sort of really work, for those types of groups?

Ellie Fowler (00:46:08) - So there obviously needs to be very geared up for children. so, you know, as nice as some of the ones are, they're not as geared up for children as the likes of MSC, Royal Caribbean NCL where they've got, you know, not all P&O. Obviously you've got some of the newer ones now coming through with many activities. but yeah, they want lots going on and a lot of that now obviously, you know, the likes of them will have like the adult-only area. So what you'll find is some of the grandparents will maybe check into that part and then, you know, the family, then the younger family will check into like the normal part or do some inside cabins versus some suites and things like that.

Ellie Fowler (00:46:41) - So there's a bit of something for everyone, but you know, see if there's the aunties that uncles that, you know, Nan's granddad's, they tend to want that time away from the chaos with all the children as well. So they've got that luxury then to go and maybe check into, you know, some of the adult-only areas and, let the kids run free. Then in the kids areas, the biggest hurdle with multi-generational is getting the timings right, because you've got to get booked so far in advance to get those cabins. If they want to be close together or be in what particular cabins? I was doing a book yesterday for somebody for 2026, and I had balcony cabins all sold out and I couldn't. I just couldn't believe my eyes. I thought, that's 2026. We're not even in 25 yet. So, yeah, it is quite tough. And, you know, a lot of families, you know, come. Oh, yeah. I'll get on a last-minute cruise.

Ellie Fowler (00:47:29) - You think? Well, no you can't. It doesn't work like that. So, it's just educating them on being more prepared and organised.

Ryan Haynes (00:47:37) - Excellent. Wonderful. Ellie, thanks so much for sharing those insights with us today. It's been very valuable and insightful.

Ellie Fowler (00:47:43) - That's okay. You're welcome. Thank you for having me.

Ryan Haynes (00:47:50) - Now we're back. It's a quick quiz, a best of five, where our panellists are challenged on their industry knowledge. And we have our guest panellist here as well. Let's see if she can steal the show with all the points. So are we right? Are you ready? All four of you. Are we ready? Our buzzers. Yes, yes. Great. So, question one, which city is the Eurovision Song Contest in this year?

Claire Steiner (00:48:17) - Malmo, Sweden.

Ryan Haynes (00:48:19) - Claire. Well done. All right then. Good for you. That's one point. You don't get points very often. Well done. Well done. I'll keep my eye on this one. Right.

Ryan Haynes (00:48:32) - Yeah. Question two. How long is the world's longest flight? To the closest hour. Okay, James.

James Clarke (00:48:42) - I'm gonna go with 17.5 hours.

Ryan Haynes (00:48:45) - 17.5 hours. You're close to it. Over two Will? Was that? You will see it now.

Will Plummer (00:48:53) - Yes. 18 hours and ten minutes.

Claire Steiner (00:48:59) - I think it's I think it's I think it's 19.

Ryan Haynes (00:49:02) - 19. Okay. And Cress, do you want to make a stop?

Cressida Sergeant (00:49:06) - I think it's 18.

Ryan Haynes (00:49:08) - You think it's 18? Well, the closest by 20 minutes. Is Claire. It was 18 hours 40 minutes.

Claire Steiner (00:49:21) - So I'm going to roll.

Ryan Haynes (00:49:26) - Okay. Question three which city is hosting the Olympics this year?

Ryan Haynes (00:49:33) - Will?

Will Plummer (00:49:35) - Would that be Paris Ryan?

Ryan Haynes (00:49:36) - Yes, it would be well done. Okay. Question four what year or decade was Machu Picchu rediscovered?

Ryan Haynes (00:49:53) - Claire?

Claire Steiner (00:49:56) - 1950s.

Ryan Haynes (00:50:00) - That's a no.

Ryan Haynes (00:50:03) - Here's the thing about I'm losing it. It's Will.

Will Plummer (00:50:05) - I'm gonna go in the 1920s.

Ryan Haynes (00:50:07) - 1920s. You're wrong. There's one more glass.

Ryan Haynes (00:50:13) - Go on. James.

James Clarke (00:50:16) - 1800.

Ryan Haynes (00:50:19) - Cress you may as well have a go. He's failed as well. Can you get this right?

Cressida Sergeant (00:50:22) - 1930s? 

Ryan Haynes (00:50:25) - No. Will, you were closest. It was the 1910s, 1911 officially. Right. Okay, so final question. Many Western world hotels skip the 13th floor in the hope of avoiding bad luck in China which floor number is often skipped for the same reason?

Claire Steiner (00:50:53) - And I think it's seven.

Ryan Haynes (00:50:57) - Seven? No, James. 

James Clarke (00:51:00) - It's six.

Ryan Haynes (00:51:04) - No.

Ryan Haynes (00:51:07) - Will?

Will Plummer (00:51:09) - Is it eight, Ryan?

Ryan Haynes (00:51:10) - Cress. Do you get a point?

Cressida Sergeant (00:51:14) - Is he three?

Speaker 9 (00:51:16) - Oh, yes. You're the.

Ryan Haynes (00:51:17) - Closest four.

Cressida Sergeant (00:51:19) - Oh, it's bad luck, of course. Bad luck in China.

Ryan Haynes (00:51:22) - Oh, so well done this week. Claire Steiner wins.

Speaker 9 (00:51:27) - Yeah. Well done.

Ryan Haynes (00:51:30) - Well done. That was fast. That was furious. Thank you very much. To our three regular panellists, Clare Steiner, James Clark and Wil Plummer. And for Cressida Sargeant, thank you for putting up with us today and joining us as our guest panellist for the Cruise edition.

Cressida Sergeant (00:51:45) - Oh, be my pleasure.

Ryan Haynes (00:51:47) - Guys. Lovely to see you all. Look forward to catching you again soon. Ciao for now. This is Travel Market Life.

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