INTERNATIONAL. While online traffic to the websites of leading cruiselines has grown sharply through the pandemic, recent data from Similarweb suggests that the pace of growth is slowing and that purchasing trends have weakened in the past two months.

From the pandemic low in October 2020, web traffic to top cruise lines increased +321% in May 2022, according to Similarweb estimates. May 2022 rose +119% year-on-year and was up +5.7% over April 2022. But growth has been uneven, up only +1.8% in April after a +30.7% increase in February.

Customer engagement has strengthened, with duration (time spent on site), pages per visit and bounce rate (percentage of visitors that leave after viewing only one page) all seeing modest improvement over the past year. However, conversion data (the number of website visits that results in a purchase) showed a drop in converted visits in May 2022, which Similarweb said “may be a warning sign for the industry”.

The cruise industry has seen a strong rise in trip searches since October 2020 but growth has been uneven, especially this year; click to enlarge. Source all charts: Similarweb

The web tracker’s latest insights report on the cruise market noted that many potential cruise customers are still concerned about the safety of cruises, given past quarantines and mass COVID outbreaks onboard cruise ships at the onset of the pandemic. Spikes in Delta and Omicron variants halted momentum in the industry last year when it looked set to recover.

Inflation and economic risks, coupled with continued worries about safety and the addition of geopolitical concerns like the war in Ukraine, could keep the industry from full recovery for some time, the report noted.

The drop in conversion to trip purchase is a concern, says the digital intelligence provider

Similarweb data on conversion trends shows that, after strengthening sharply for the first three months of 2022, conversion trends decelerated in May.

It stated: “Given economic conditions and inflation pressures, this could be a sign that consumers are not following through on booking cruises, despite their apparent interest (based on engagement metrics). After rising +50% in March and +35% in February, April conversion declined -4% and May weakened a further -8%, month-over-month. This decline could also be due to the recent flare-ups of COVID in different regions, prompting potential customers to rethink plans.”
With the US comprising about 81% of total web traffic to leading cruise line websites, US data on conversion is a good proxy for the overall industry, said Similarweb.

Similarweb data on web visitor demographics shows that cruiselines Viking and Silversea skew towards a significantly older audience, while Carnival and Royal Caribbean attract a younger audience.

The report said: “This is largely due to the luxurious nature of the former, and the affordability of the latter. Demand for all cruises is not equal, and with the economy seemingly headed toward recession, it seems plausible that younger, less affluent travellers may be quicker to cancel trips than older more affluent ones, potentially impacting cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean more deeply than those that skew older.”

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