Vacation.com’s Lovell Buoyant On 2016 Cruise Prospects
It’s the most
important cruise booking period of the year, and Vacation.com says things are
going just swimmingly.
“To sum it up, I am
extremely optimistic for 2016,” says John Lovell, President, Travel Leaders
Franchise Group, Leisure Group & Vacation.com.
Lovell cites numerous
factors for his optimism, which he says is not just for the short term, but
points to sustained growth through at least much of the year. He says many of
the factors are not so much related to macro issues but rather to how the
industry itself is finally conducting business in a way that values cruises
First, the numbers:
Vacation.com held its
2016 news briefing in NYC recently, and Lovell says that for the year 2015
aggregate cruise sales were up by low double-digits. “We were about 11% up on
the cruise business in 2015 where we turned the year.”
That figure is made up
of both passengers and yield. “6% on the passenger side and 5% on the yield
side,” Lovell said.
Agent reports back up
these statistics. “When we asked our Vacation.com members to compare their 2016
cruise bookings with those of the same time last year, an outright majority -
54.9% - said they are increasing, and nearly 40% of our agents said that their
increases are 20% or higher,” said Lovell.
Given the terror
attacks in Paris, Lovell thought sales might dip a little in December’s early
wave season. “We in fact didn’t see that,” he reports. “We saw a little bit (of
decline) on the river cruise and some of the Med products. But with our turning
the year up 11%, I remain very optimistic.”
Lovell says Alaska and
the Caribbean are leading the way as the top cruise destinations. He says there
are positives in Europe, but the situation there is a little more mixed.
With Paris, terrorists
put tourism’s mantra that ‘If people don’t travel, the terrorists win’ to its
biggest test in years. The results -- only a mild loss of business so far --
once again show that “consumers realize we no longer live in a bubble,” Lovell
says. Ultimately, consumers are spending money in the Caribbean and Alaska.
“You’re seeing passenger growth, you’re seeing more deployment in the
Caribbean, so it all points to a very, very good year,” he says.
Once again, Wave
Season got off to an early start. “The reason I thought Wave got off to a very
strong start is that the cruise lines are holding yield and not discounting
their product,” he says. The situation started months ago. “We didn’t see that deep
discounting for the 4th quarter customer. The cruise lines held
their points where they needed. Wave season actually stretched as early as
November by growing on the passenger side and with yield."
credits the actions of suppliers and retailers. “I think the agent
community is doing a good job of explaining that these are going to be the best
promotions,” says Lovell. “It’s because they have faith in (cruise executives
like) Richard Fain and Frank del Rio who are confidently saying ‘This is the
best deal you’re going to get.’
“For so many years we
were in a market situation where the consumer would wait and wait for that buy,
because they thought the pricing was going to drop. Now agents are telling
consumers that the pricing is not going to get better. ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith,
what you want is to buy now.'”
Furthermore, he says,
“Consumers are talking to travel professionals and are responding to value-add
components. Vacation.com members are effectively using those and all the
marketing tools that we have given them to use for closing the sale."
All in all, there is
very little not to like about the reports. A full 1/3 of Vacation.com members
have indicated that more than 20% their cruise bookings are for 1st