CLIA President and CEO Cindy D’Aoust: “Without question the cruise industry continues on a growth trajectory”

 INTERNATIONAL. Strong demand for cruise holidays will see passenger numbers rise to 27.2 million next year while 27 new ocean, river and speciality ships will debut in 2018 to accommodate rising demand.

The forecasts come from Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) in its latest forward-looking assessment* of the buoyant market. The duty free and travel retail business is also expanding as more ships launch with extra retail space onboard.

Washington-based CLIA, the world’s largest cruise industry trade association, estimates this year will end with 25.8 million passengers, an increase of +20.5% over five years.

Cruise industry expenditures generated US$126 billion in total output worldwide last year.

“It is without question that the cruise industry continues on a growth trajectory, gaining in consumer interest and creating a positive impact on the global economy,” said CLIA President and CEO Cindy D’Aoust.

“The 2018 State of the Cruise Industry Outlook is a way for us to keep a finger on the pulse of the global cruise industry and its impact on the global economy and identify new travel trends.”

Democratisation of travel: Almost all income brackets are now cruising, with 33% of cruisers surveyed having a household income of under US$80,000

Eight trends to watch

Based on its research and analysis, CLIA has come up with its top eight cruise travel trends for the coming year. Most are relevant to how travel retailers and their brand suppliers sell and market onboard.

All Budgets Will Cruise – Almost all income brackets are now cruising, with 33% of cruisers surveyed (who took a cruise within the past three years) having a household income of under US$80,000. While cruising skews more to the affluent consumer than other types of vacations, CLIA’s latest report indicates almost all levels of income enjoy cruise vacations.

Transformational Cruise Travel – Experiential travel is moving towards ‘transformational’ experiences. In other words, more passengers are looking for elements such as cultural immersion, so-called ‘voluntourism’ or extreme adventures, in order to return from a cruise with a shift in perspective and/or a sense of accomplishment. Cruise itineraries are changing to cater to the demand with, for example, tours through small villages, visits inside private homes, swimming with sharks in South Africa, riding a Harley Davidson in Alaska, or mingling with penguins in the Arctic.

Experiential travel is moving towards ‘transformational’ experiences

Sustainability at Sea – The focus on sustainable tourism is increasing so that travellers can participate in sustainable practices both onboard and off. These range from recycling and waste management to voluntourism initiatives that have a positive environmental and social impact at destinations around the globe.

 River Millennials – River and small ship cruising is gaining traction among the Millennial set as itineraries and destination experiences expand beyond walking and coach tours. The endless options for the perfect ‘Instagram moment’ is keeping the younger generation interested in river cruising, according to CLIA.

 Skip-Gen Cruising – Multigenerational cruising is projected to increase in popularity in 2018 and beyond – but with a twist. More grandparents and grandchildren will travel together, but without the parents.

Travellers warm to Chilly Destinations – Colder climate destinations including the Baltics, Canada, Alaska, and Antarctica are set for a boost. With unique excursions, from penguin watching to ice fishing, these regions are drawing both new and repeat cruise travellers.

Healthy Doses – Health and wellness trips are on the rise and the cruise industry is responding with services and experiences for the mind and body. These range from seminars led by health experts, custom fitness programmes, stress management, and spa services. CLIA says there are now entire cruise itineraries dedicated to weight management and healthy living.

Smart Travel Technology – A rise in traveller-friendly technologies, thanks to wearable tech, offers cruise guests personalised and seamless experience while onboard – which increases the opportunity for retail promotions, and extra spending.

* CLIA’s 2018 State of the Cruise Industry Outlook offers an in-depth look at the cruise industry’s overall global economic impact as well as the trends impacting cruise travel in 2018.