Last year, UK cruise guests surpassed two million, with many of these people still choosing to sail from the UK. Customers seeking to ease the stress and burden of travelling continue to look closer to home for their next cruise holiday; ex UK cruising is therefore becoming increasingly popular. We are lucky to have some beautiful destinations within reach of our ports, particularly around the British Isles. Over the past few years, we have seen continuously increased demand to visit these more local destinations and explore the best our island has to offer.
Travel agents play a key part in bringing new customers to ex UK cruising while also retaining the existing capacity. As we see higher price points in this market, albeit still competitive, agents can earn very good commissions focusing on these sailings. This, twinned with growing demand, particularly for a premium product, can become a very lucrative opportunity. Of course, it also isn’t just the customer who gets an easier experience – agents also get a relative ease of transaction, selling what is effectively cruise only, with no flight add-ons or additional complexity.
Cruising from the UK offers customers a real range of benefits, most notably the ease of travel. No matter how often you travel, airports are stressful and intimidating places. So, the opportunity to remove this from the agenda is a real bonus. At Saga we have countless customers who come to us to take advantage of our VIP Car Service, taking them from their door to the port and back again. Rather than the usual hassle and stress with which we start and end our holidays, our service only extends their enjoyment. Now, when it comes to packing, ex-UK cruising offers yet more benefits. We all know the struggle of trying to meet 23kg (if you’re lucky), or the dreaded unpack and repack in the airport. Sailing from the UK removes this task and allows you to take those extra outfits you wanted. What could be better?
I think it is fair to say that there are some misconceptions surrounding ex-UK cruising, namely that it is a sub-standard product and for an older market. Of course, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Almost all major cruise lines are bringing new and innovative ships to our shores, offering an outstanding holiday experience at very reasonable value. However, as it currently stands, premium/luxury ex-UK cruising is limited, particularly on smaller ships. We are seeing a significant and rapid increase in customers seeking something sailing from the UK that offers luxurious surroundings, without overwhelming them with scale. This is the reason we at Saga are building two smaller ships, with boutique hotel styling, sailing ex-UK; we know there is a sizable market out looking for just that. Spirit of Discovery is arriving in July and Spirit of Adventure follows in August 2020 and they will mark a new era in ex-UK cruising.
As I think ahead to the future of this sector within cruise, I am filled with confidence and ambition. We are all very aware of how many new ships are being built in the coming years, all of which are catering for a slightly different market. The growth of cruise as a whole is of paramount importance to us all and I am confident ex-UK will be a huge part of this.