Agency Distribution Channel Is Growing In Tandem With Cruise Industry
In a speech to a roomful of cruise execs in Miami Beach recently, John Lovell, President of Leisure Travel, Supplier Relations and Networks for Travel Leaders Group, explained how and why the travel agency distribution channel is growing in tandem with the cruise industry.
First, Lovell pointed to his own company's strategy: "We've been acquiring organizations because we look at the distribution channel as a growth platform for us moving forward."
Then, quoting a Phocuswright study, Lovell pointed to the numbers, such as an anticipated 13% overall growth in the number of travel advisors industrywide from 2017 to 2021.
One reason for the retail growth is stronger demand from unexpected sources, such as younger family travellers.
"From an overall family perspective, 51% of millennials families are now using travel agents," he reported, adding, "That speaks to the complexity of the products that are out there."
Millennials are very comfortable on the Internet, but Lovell notes that while the Internet provides information, it also can cause confusion. "Some people sit there and go, 'What's the difference between this cabin and that cabin? We're looking at 20 different categories within a ship!'"
Many turn to travel advisors, Lovell told cruise execs, to bring clarity to not just where to go, but how to go.
"Everybody thinks that the millennials are doing everything online," he said. "In actuality they are researching online, but when it comes to buying, they're picking up the phone. They want that affirmation and confirmation."
One number that stands out is the percentage of high-end business sold by travel advisors.
"The higher you go up in product, from a contemporary market to the luxury side of the business, the higher the travel advisor usage," said Lovell. "82% of the luxury cruise sales business is going through the agency distribution channel."
So it's promising that extensive growth is now taking place in markets appealing to high-end travellers.
"When we look at world cruising, river cruising, Asia cruising, Europe ocean cruising, the amount of inventory and sales that we see in those areas just keeps expanding year over year."
Speaking selfishly he said, "I love that the cruise industry continues to evolve, that more and more money is being put into ships."