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North American demand for cruises on the rise for ‘early adopters’ as travel restrictions lift

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Warm destinations remain high on cruise travelers’ priorities; Both young and old interested in cruising again.

SEATTLE – The past few weeks have seen a resurgence in cruise demand, with travelers eager to resume vacations at sea. New research from Expedia Group, in collaboration with Environics Analytics, reveals the characteristics and preferences of post-pandemic cruise travelers between mid-2021 and early 2022. 

Expedia Group data indicates that there has been a 25% increase in U.S. cruise searches on its sites since the CDC announced it is lifting travel restrictions. Additional demographics research by Environics Analytics measured a sample of approximately 3,000 post-pandemic ‘early adopters’, defined as having booked trips after March 1, 2021 that depart between July 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022. Findings revealed that passengers making up the largest group have a propensity to be upper-middle income Americans aged 65 or older.

The Environics Analytics research also revealed significant differences in the characteristics of U.S. vs. Canadian passengers. The data showed that there was a higher percentage of total Canadian passengers ages 30-49 (29%) cruising in Q4 2021 compared to the U.S. (22%) for the same time period. In addition, nearly half of Canadian passengers in Q4 2021 (46%) have children at home, compared to only 21% of U.S. passengers, suggesting that cruises appeal to a slightly younger, family-based audience for Canadians who may feel cruise is a safer option than other types of vacation at the moment. 

Expedia Group search data for US cruise searches showed that the Caribbean (30%), the Bahamas (15%), Mexico (10%), and Europe (5%) accounted for nearly 60% of all U.S. searches in the weeks following the CDC announcement[2]. In a year-over-year comparison, the Caribbean remains the most sought-after destination for U.S. cruise travelers.

Seven-day trips are the overwhelming choice for cruise travelers in both Q4 2021 and Q1 2022, making up just over 40% and almost 45% of trips, respectively. This aligns with findings from Expedia Group’s recent Traveler Value Index, which found that 41% of travelers want to take frequent, shorter trips. These shorter trips may be encouraging cruisers to splurge on their cabin choice, with the majority selecting balcony cabins. The research also revealed that cruise travelers most value the ability to get a full refund on cancelled cruise reservations[3] – a key consideration for cruise lines and franchises working in the industry in order to gain customer trust and loyal customers.

What’s more, Expedia Group search data revealed that search windows have shortened since the travel restrictions have been lifted. Prior to the CDC’s announcement, more than half of search windows were for two months or more. Since the announcement, 60% of search windows are for less than two months out for American cruise travelers. When it comes to Canadian passengers, the two-to-three-month search window saw an upsurge in demand, with 140% month-over-month growth.

“We’re very pleased to see the increased desire for cruises post-pandemic,” said Matthew Eichhorst, VP, Global Cruise, President of Expedia Cruises. “Travelers are eager to sail again as too are our cruise partners. We can see that warm destinations are topping the list once again as people look to relax and recharge after a challenging two years. These insights will be critical in helping our cruise partners assess demand, ensuring the necessary processes are in place to continuing to provide the safe and stellar services cruise travelers expect in today’s evolved landscape. At Expedia Cruises, we’re always looking for ways to support our partners in the industry, from clear communications on our platform, to a wide range of choice for our diverse group of cruise customers to book, whether online, in-store, or on the phone.”

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