HomeNewsAndy Harmer (CLIA) at Travel Centres 2022

Andy Harmer (CLIA) at Travel Centres 2022

Andy Harmer (Managing Director at CLIA UK & Ireland) took to the stage – cruising is not just for those that always cruised, “it’s not that type of holiday anymore. It is a type of holiday that is for everyone and much of that is because of the huge investment that the cruise lines have been making… with new ships and new products, and new features.” 

Cruise Lines International Association

Andy explained what CLIA is; “We work with c.40 of the world’s best cruise lines. We work in 15 countries. We work with nearly 60,000, travel agents and one of our key roles in life is to support our travel agent partners so that they can sell more cruises.”

This is achieved through accredited learning, modules, resources and events. Check out the website.

Two Types of Holidaymakers – Cruisers & Very Strange People

With an affable bias, Andy Harmer explained the customer base to an entertained audience;

With an affable bias, Andy Harmer explained the customer base to an entertained audience;

“Now in holidaymaker land, in the world of the consumer, there are basically two types of holiday customers. There are cruisers and then those very strange people who have never yet taken a cruise holiday”.

Andy continued, “you can tell that the cruisers are very happy in jolly and we’ve all been there for that “yet-to-cruise” type of customer.”

I have certainly been there, many times with customers, friends and family. My other half set foot onboard a cruise for the first time this year and she’s a convert (and it took mere seconds). She expected a ferry from the 1990s reminiscent of her childhood holidays. In reality, today’s cruising is equivalent to a five-star resort that brings you to places where you spend your time wining, dining, chilling and being entertained. All at an incredible value and at a higher standard than most hotels. I digress, back to Andy. 

The Benchmark is 1-in-10 & Repeat Customer is 90%

Andy asked the audience who had cruises (virtually everyone) and who would cruise again (the sea of hands stayed up).

He detailed that for the UK and Irish market, approximately 1-in-10 holiday-makers of a package holiday, will take a cruise. This is broadly the benchmark. In other words, he says “if you sell 10 package holidays, at least one of them should be a cruise.” 

He explained that the opportunity is 2 million cruise guests every single year from UK and Ireland and detailed that this market is the fifth largest cruise market in the world with the smaller river cruise segment totalling 235,000.

Andy highlighted the strong repeat business from those that take a cruise. Based on research conducted in July amongst holidaymakers who have cruised, 90% who have cruised in the last six months would cruise again. Andy stated, “So in other words, if we’re that travel agency that is talking to a customer about taking a cruise and they take their first fruits, you already know that 90% of them will book a cruise within the first six months after they returned from that cruise.”

Service, Destination, Experience & Value

Andy lists four important reasons that customers love to cruise:

Service – Incredible Job on Every Ship, Every Day on Every Itinerary

On a cruise, you build up a relationship with the crew on board a ship in a way that you don’t in a hotel. Andy shared “The crew are incredible and do an incredible job on every ship, on every day, on every itinerary wherever they are in the world, the service is incredible. Those people that have taken a cruise know that.” 

Destination – Taking to the Sea to Visit the Land

Only cruise gives customers the option to visit multiple destinations in one trip, from the comfort of a ship. Mr Harmer explained, “In fact, customers tell us that the reason they cruise is not because of the incredible ships that they’re on but because of the amazing destinations.”

Experience – Curated Experience for Cruisers

While the destinations are amazing, it’s because cruise companies have curated incredible experiences in those ports of call as well. Gone are the days when the ship pulled into a port and you got off the ship and you did the same thing that everybody else did. The offering now is tailored to guest preferences. “People are taking to the sea to visit the land,” says Andy Harmer. 

Notwithstanding that the ships themselves are amazing. Andy added, “You just have to see the pictures of some of the ships that have launched this year to see that these ships are incredible and getting more incredible each time a new ship is launched.”

Value for Money – Inclusive Offering

Andy shared that what “is increasingly important this year and will be next year is the value for money that cruising offers”. He highlighted how it is one of the most inclusive types of holiday, that food, kids club, entertainment, daytime activities, dining and onboard experiences are often ” a standard that is far better than your average hotel”.

Perceptions & Misconceptions

Andy expanded on the cruise market, “Again, there is a perception that cruises are couples and that they tend to travel in twos… about a third of all cruises will travel in a couple”. He continued, “In fact, 50% of cruisers will travel in parties of over three.” which is important to remember when deciding if a customer is a potential cruiser.

Top Five Cruise Destinations for UK & Irish Customers

  • 1 – Mediterranean- c.45% of all cruisers sold from the UK & Ireland.
  • 2 – Northern Europe
  • 3 – Caribbean for both sunshine & newest ships
  • 4 – Canary Islands for the winter sunshine
  • 5 – Transatlantic and world cruise

The trend for Add-On Stays

Andy elaborated that the trend with customers is 87% of people will stay at least one night before embarkation and at least 78% will stay at least one night when they disembark as well. So there are opportunities for sales in this area too. 

Andy rounded up, “1-in-10 of all package holidays is a cruise. But actually, if you look at those other nine, they could all be cruisers. We have a slight issue of getting a lot of snow and skiing onto cruise ships these days but if we wait for long enough…”

The moral of the story is that cruisers will buy cruises but don’t forget that the other 9-in-10 holidaymakers are just as important. Given the 90% repeat business, if they’ve cruised in the last six months, once the hard work of converting them to cruise is done, it should continue to reap rewards. Equally, add-on stays before and after the cruise is an opportunity to sell (and, I’ll add, provides flexibility if air travel faces similar issues as they did this summer).

A packed networking session ran for the afternoon.

Shane Cullen
Shane Cullen
Shane Cullen has been managing director of a media production studio for nearly 20 years working on projects for a global clientele. He has worked in the travel industry for over a decade and as a travel journalist since 2015. He is passionate about travel, film & photography. He also has a keen interest in emerging technology.
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