Over the next seven weeks, seven industry experts will share their predictions for the coming year as part of our ‘Where next for cruise?’ series to mark the launch of Cruise Adviser’s Preview guide 2016. Following Andy Harmer, director of Clia UK and Ireland, is Giles Hawke, MSC Cruises, UK & Ireland managing director.
Is there another sector of the travel industry that’s doing more to innovate and get itself future-ready than cruise? I don’t think so – and that’s why it’s so exciting to work where I do.
After years of being dogged by a fusty and old-fashioned image, cruise lines are now leading the way when it comes to giving consumers what they want.
One of the most obvious trends is the desire people of all ages now have for experiences. From millennials to young-at-heart over 60s, everyone is seeking fun that they can talk about and share on social media. Why go shopping for a novelty fridge magnet when you could be soaring over Stockholm in a helicopter? (hint: you can do this great excursion on an MSC Baltic cruise, folks!)
The message that cruise is spectacularly good value is spreading, in part due to the good work the lines and Clia are doing with the trade. For 2016 and beyond, I see the demand for balcony cabins increasing. Having more luxury goes hand-in-hand with experiencing more. As a consequence, clients have to book early to get what they want, giving agents an opportunity to make the most of these higher-value products. Alongside that is the increasing demand for all-inclusive options. Beer, wine, cocktails, ice creams and fancy coffees — everyone loves to indulge on holiday. Packages such as our Allegrissimo take the budgeting headaches away.
I expect even more 3G cruising — bigger family groups across three generations sailing together. Ships are increasingly able to offer attractions and entertainment for all ages, with customisable family cabins taking large groups. Alternatively, grandparents can opt for a tranquil retreat — like our sumptuous MSC Yacht Club — once they’ve had their fill of family fun.
On my wish list is the desire to see agents recognise that cruise can be a good second or third holiday. Forget selling long weekends in the UK – there’s a whole world of brilliant short-break cruises out there for impulsive and inquisitive clients.
In that vein, I’m expecting to see winter cruising continue its upward trend. We’ve got options in the Caribbean, Cuba and Emirates that are superb
for the adventurous sun seeker. Why sell a boring land-based stay when clients are increasingly demanding variety?
Of course, no overview on future trends could be complete without recognising the threats the tourism industry faces. None of us can ignore the fact that security issues are sure to play on the minds of consumers and cruise is sure to benefit due to the flexible nature of the itineraries to avoid troubled destinations.
Oh, one last thing. We’re working hard at MSC Cruises to make sure that agents and consumers in the UK recognise the quality and difference of our products. That will certainly continue as the business becomes an even bigger player in the global cruise market!