-¬---No radical change-¬~ in online cruise booking predicted
No radical change in the level of direct booking of cruises online is expected in the UK, at least in the near future.
That is the view of Carnival UK chief executive David Dingle giving an overview of the cruise industry.
Providing a market overview as part of the P&O Cruises, Cunard and Ocean Village parent company"s 2010 annual Cruise Report, Dingle said there was a "clear increase" in the amount of information being sourced online by cruise passengers.
But the proportion of direct internet bookings remains low at between four to five per cent.
"For the simpler, lower-cost products such as Ocean Village the share rises - but only to about eight per cent - while for the more expensive brands with more complex propositions, it drops to two to three per cent," said Dingle.
"It could move up in the future but, significantly, it still remains at low levels in the US where the concept was embraced earlier, so we do not expect any radical change in this pattern any time soon.
"With cruising at least, people still appear to prefer face-to-face transaction."
The report revealed that Carnival UK brands accounted for more than 579,000 UK passengers last year.
Carnival Corporation chairman and CEO Micky Arison, in an introduction to the report, predicted a doubling in the number of UK cruise passengers to three million in the next decade spurred by an increasing level of shorter duration cruises.
"I believe the biggest change for cruising over the next 10 years will be that it will become just like North America, offering cruises of just about any length and suitable for just about everyone, he said.
"For example, there are very few short cruises in the UK right now but this will change over time because the higher quality ships with their greater range of facilities being built and operated these days will act as interesting destinations in themselves," said Arison.
The expanded choice of itineraries and cruise styles will help ensure the rapid growth of UK cruisers will continue.
"There has been a pattern in the growth of cruising which has seen the North American market run five-10 years ahead of the UK, so I can see no reason why it should not double in size to match the kind of growth the market has experienced in North America.
"This would mean the British taking three million cruises every year compared with the 1.55 million in 2009."
*See linked Cruise Report stories.
by Phil Davies
Tuesday, March 2, 2010