How is the cruise industry starting to attract new customers?

When the cruise reboots, die-hard fans come first. But – for an industry that has long relied on new customers to fuel its growth – will those who have never cruised before be ready to embark?

Or will headlines for months about quarantines, positive tests on board and sensationalism about “floating Petri dishes” scare off newcomers?

Michelle Fee, CEO and founder of Cruise Planners, an American Express travel agent, said first-time visitors will not be the focus of the cruise resumption.

“Given the first signs of pent-up demand and the fact that most ships will be sailing at reduced capacity, first-time cruisers will not be the focus – the obvious choice will be past passengers,” Fee said. “They know how safe it is to travel on a ship and have the confidence to get on board knowing full well that the cruise lines have taken exceptional precautions. I’ll say our 2021-2022 cruise business has a solid foundation so it doesn’t look like we’ll have a hard time refilling ships once this pandemic is behind us. ”

First-time users will book again as soon as life returns to normal, she predicted.

“Once things have calmed down and finally get back to normal, a first-time cruiser will be dressed just as much, if not more than before,” Fee wrote in an email. “With all the new protocols and changes, ships will be even more attractive than they were before the pandemic. From seamless embarkations to new, deserted model exercises to top-quality sanitation – the rumors, myths and negative perceptions will all prove to be false and will disappear. ”

Of course, professional travel consultants are key to recovery.

“Travel consultants need to focus on inspiring marketing and showcasing the health and safety protocols that the cruise industry is adopting,” said Drew Daly, senior vice president and general manager of Dream Vacations, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. “Advisors should become experts.” Actions taken as all consumers want to know what protocols are being implemented in all aspects of the vacation experience – including flights, pre and post cruise hotels, tours and on board. ”

Fee and Daly also said that relaxed cancellation policies will put new customers at ease.

“Yes, this definitely helped our consultants close the sale. As long as there is fear of infection with the virus, vacation companies should extend their flexible cancellation policy, “said Fee.

Daly agrees, “I think more flexible cancellation policies will give consumers the confidence they need to plan their cruise vacation in the short and long term.”

Both said a campaign, possibly led by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), was necessary to publicize the safety measures.

“It is imperative for the industry to do some damage control and to publicize the strict protocols that cruise lines follow to keep the cruise as safe as possible. We have publicly spoken out in favor of the CDC pulling out of the cruise industry as it negatively affects consumer confidence in cruises and travel in general, ”said Fee. “Cruise Planners’s loyal customer base is already driving future travel sales. To achieve a new cruise, the public perception must be safe for our beloved industry to fully recover and rebuild. At Cruise Planners, we haven’t stopped our proactive marketing efforts and have instead focused on a more supportive, educational, and informative approach. A very successful thing is our new virtual series Where2Next “for customers of travel consultants.

Conclusion Daly: “Yes, the safety and health protocols that are being implemented must definitely be promoted strongly to consumers. Cruise ships, CLIA and travel agencies need to talk together about the measures and how they will look on board. Consumers will want to see what life is like on board and imagine how their experiences will play out. ”

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