SEATTLE, WA. – Expedia Group unveiled new data and demographic insights to help agents and cruise lines better target demand during its Expedia Cruises 2021 Virtual Conference. Cruise executives from the leading online travel agency also highlighted the need for the industry to understand the evolving roles of agents, to embrace new technology for a more seamless experience for travelers and agents, and to respond to new and evolving pockets of demand.
New data and demographical insights to help agents and cruise lines better target demand
The average length of cruise bookings jumped from nine days in Q1 2019 to 11 days in Q1 2021, and the average spend per cabin has also increased by just over 100% for bookings in Q1 2021 compared with bookings in Q1 20191, showing a willingness from some cruise travelers to spend more on their cruise than pre-pandemic.
With US vaccination rates up and more relaxed travel restrictions, 44% of new bookings in Q1 in the US market were for 2021 departures, 20% of which are for this summer – people are demonstrating that they want to cruise again as soon as possible.2
Newly released research also revealed that the desire to cruise spans different age groups too: although Millennials (53%) and Gen Zers (56%) are comparably comfortable with taking a cruise, Millennials (12%) are nearly twice as likely as Gen Zers (7%) to have booked a cruise for some time during the next six months.3
New research also showed that despite travelers currently spending more per cabin, lower pricing matters more in cruise compared with other forms of travel in some markets. From research that looks at what travelers value the most when booking a trip, cruise travel was the only line of business where travelers from numerous countries ranked low pricing as the top value.
Separately, younger generations tend to be thinking more about environmentally-friendly policies when thinking about cruises, most notably with Gen Z in North America ranking it jointly in the second spot after value.4
Industry-leading technology and training to enable a more frictionless experience for agents and travelers
Expedia Group executives also shared an increased focus on technology and a desire for its cruise business to become a leader in digital experience and content, in supply and transparent pricing, and in service and trip management, by taking full advantage of the company’s platform capabilities to support agents and to serve travelers in the most efficient way possible.
- The Cruise Search Results (CSR) tool, also known as the grid view, is a direct result of partners requesting a more agent-focused experience so they can more efficiently shop and compare cruises on behalf of their travelers. The tool has been highly successful since its launch this year, and last week was updated to enable agents to share up to five cruise itineraries in one email with a few clicks, simplifying both the agent and traveler shopping experience.
- A new ‘info site’ experience for cruise shoppers, to be rolled out in the coming months. The page will provide customers with helpful information about what’s on board the ship, what is included in the cost of the cruise, and what kind of experiences travelers can have at each port of call. The page forms an integral part of the educational experience for travelers. The site will continue to develop as the company focuses on being the place cruisers go when they want to discover, dream about, and envision their next cruise vacation.
- The ongoing shift of franchisees and Vacation Consultants from Cruise Desk to Expedia Group Partner Central, our technology platform for travel partners, making it easier for them to efficiently search and shop for cruises, manage their travelers through Customer Relationship Management systems (CRM), perform administrative tasks, create marketing collateral and run reports.
- A continued focus on the omnichannel strategy to align Expedia Group’s online and offline cruise shopping experience, improving the traveler experience by providing more options to purchase on their preferred method (in-store, mobile, web, or phone) and increasing visibility and conversion for cruise line partners on Expedia Group sites. Omnichannel also allows cruise partners to better understand and target different demographics, enabling enhanced personalization and helping convert first-time travelers into loyal cruisers.
- Ongoing sales training to empower franchisees and Vacation Consultants to perform at their optimum, to restore confidence after a hiatus period for many, and to remove friction from the cruise search, book and trip management experience. Recent trainees who completed the Expedia Cruises’ Princess 3-Day-Sale training generated eight times more bookings during the Princess Cruises 3-Day-Sale this year than those who didn’t take the training.
A media roundtable, moderated by Charles Syvlia, VP of Industry and Trade Relations at Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), also addressed the evolving role of agents since the pandemic. No longer simply a ‘book and go’ mentality, the message from the panel was the need to adapt, upgrade and be better-informed to support travelers through this challenging time. Now more than ever, agents will be viewed as a consultant and trusted advisor to cruise travelers who inevitably have many more questions about their trip today than before, including details about health and safety protocols, and complexities around refunds and credits. The conference will also welcome special guest speaker Captain Kate McCue from Celebrity Cruises on its final day, sharing her insights on how the pandemic has impacted sailings and her experiences.
Matthew Eichhorst, President of Expedia Cruises said: “It is truly wonderful to have so many of our franchisees, Vacation Consultants and wider industry partners join us this week to discuss the future of cruise. The conference theme is ‘the time is now’ and we’ve never felt so much energy from our partners and travelers to return to cruising as soon as possible. Almost 70% of the conference attendees said in a pre-conference survey that the industry will be back to 2019 demand levels by the end of 2022, so there is great optimism. To get there, industry experts have highlighted the importance of data, technology and collaboration as the key to unlocking this growth, and at Expedia Cruises, we are committed to supporting our franchisees, Vacation Consultants and cruise partners throughout that journey.”
 Via Expedia Group retail stores only
 Expedia Group cruise North America demand data, Q1 2021
 Expedia Group and Morning Consult, American traveler survey, 2200 respondents, May 2021
 Expedia Group and Wakefield research, June 2021