Sam Ballard looks at Abta’s Travel Trends and – from the rise of wellness holidays to technological innovations – sees that the cruise industry is ahead of the curve
As we come to the end of the year, our thoughts naturally stray to the next and, for the purposes of this article, what is going to be big next year.
Countless organisations and media outlets have tried to predict the big trends of 2019. Few elicit much excitement. However, there is one list that is always worth reading: Abta’s Travel Trends.
The travel association doesn’t make its move without doing ample research and it shows. Last year, some of the trends they predicted included a taste for alternative destinations, responsible travel, luxury providing escapism and package holidays providing certainty to travellers.
This year, the list includes a commitment to holidays, especially Europe, wellness travel on the rise and the resurgence of the trusted travel expert. All of this bodes well for the cruise sector, not to mention the travel agents that sell into it.
The cruise industry has long been ahead of the curve. According to Clia’s 2017 Cruise Review the Mediterranean was the most popular destination for Brits in 2017 – representing 37 per cent of the entire market. It also grew by 12 per cent year-on-year. Northern Europe, the second most popular destination, also saw double digit growth.
Wellness has also become big business. Most river cruise lines offer active excursions for those who want to do a bit of walking or cycling in a destination as opposed to being bussed about. We ran a feature earlier in the year on AmaWaterways dedicating entire programmes to wellbeing and fitness. New ships – including the focus of this month’s cover feature, Celebrity Edge – have state-of-the-art gyms and dedicated spaces for yoga and pilates. The first Virgin Voyages ship, Scarlet Lady, will have an elevated running track.
And, being a specialist area of travel, the industry has long pushed the envelope when it comes to travel agents building their knowledge and becoming experts. There is a cruise for everyone, as the old adage goes, and, with the right amount of training, agents can get their customer on a cruise.
Another Abta Travel Trend is technology supporting a seamless holiday experience. Again, cruise is leading the way – whether it’s Zoe, MSC’s voice-activated digital assistant, Carnival’s Ocean Medallion or Royal Caribbean’s game changing app – the industry is investing millions.
So, with that in mind, here’s to a prosperous 2019 and a successful wave period. This year won’t be without its challenges – from Brexit on down – but if we’ve learnt anything over these past four years it’s that this industry is one of the most resilient out there.