Trends in over-50s cruise travel for 2022
Chris Coates, chief commercial officer of Ambassador Cruise Line, the first new British cruise line since 2010, outlines the developments he expects to see for older travellers this year
Chris Coates, chief commercial officer of Ambassador Cruise Line, the first new British cruise line since 2010, outlines the developments he expects to see for older travellers this year.
In 2022, we expect to see a continuation of the over-50s and retirement market looking to cruise closer to home within British and European waters and, to a lesser degree, further afield to North America, but leaning towards ex-UK no-fly sailings on lower guest density smaller to mid-sized vessels.
Longer haul and aspirational voyages are very much on the must-do list, as evidenced by strong forward 2023 and 2024 sales and sell-out world cruises, with many cruise lines bringing forward programme launches.
The British are traditionally a great seafaring nation and we believe the UK market will be at the forefront of global cruise market recovery.
Booking flexibility, brand trust, peace of mind, financial security, stringent health and safety protocols and, increasingly, sustainability are all becoming key consumer pre-requisites.
The UK Travel Intelligence report’s latest insights show that an improving 68 per cent of 50-plus past cruisers would cruise again at some point in the future, reducing to 55 per cent for first time, new-to-cruise customers.
Market indicators suggest that these figures will continue to improve, with unprecedented pent-up demand and high levels of disposable income waiting for when confidence is restored. We believe that customers will be looking to cruise more frequently and for longer, booking higher grade accommodation, with a strong desire to reconnect with family and friends and to celebrate key milestones.
Short-term commercial forecasting and trend expectations has become a herculean task for the cruise and wider travel industry, with the Covid-related challenges and the evolving variants of the past 21 months continuing to create market uncertainty and some booking hesitancy, fuelled by ever-changing travel restrictions and policy directives.
The birth of staycation cruise holidays from British ports in summer 2021, with reduced occupancy sailings to nowhere, proved very popular and were a welcome injection of short-term cash flow to operators and retailers alike, with over 100,000 passengers taking advantage of some great value deals compared to inflated UK staycation holidays.
Clia’s unstinting lobbying, commitment and collaborative work with government agencies and stakeholders has played a pivotal role in the successful resumption of cruising after the long pause in operations. Together with the cruise lines, they have also done a great job helping with the seamless re-start in operations, generating vital new-to-cruise business with the implementation of effective heightened health and safety protocols building on the very high standards already in place.
In 2021, we took the decision to launch Britain’s first cruise line since 2010 and our mid-sized 1400-guest cruise ship Ambience commences operations in April. It is aimed at the 50-plus premium value, ex-UK, no-fly market.
One of Ambassador’s key brand pillars is being sustainable and ethical, and a significant part of Ambience’s present upgrade in Rijeka is retrofitting the vessel with leading Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technologies and the latest waste management systems to fully comply with heightened regulatory environmental standards covering the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from ships (MARPOL). Once works are completed, Ambience will be positioned in the top 10 per cent of cruise ships in terms of environmental performance.
We received over 5,000 enquiries on our first day of trading on June 24, 2021 and have witnessed an insatiable appetite for our premium value more traditional product from the baby boomer, older generation X and silver travel demographic.
With the support of our trade partners, we remain optimistic and on course to achieve our budgeted 2022-23 occupancy levels and exceed yield expectations with additional capacity very much on the radar – we believe a firm statement of intent and testament to our belief and commitment to the UK cruise market.