Cruise lines will need agents “more than ever” as the sector emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic over the next year.
Martin Alcock, director at Travel Trade Consultancy, said that cruise “would take a bit longer to bounce back” from the crisis than other parts of the travel industry.
But he added there was significant growth potential as cruise still represents just a “small portion” of the overall holiday market.
“It’s always been a complicated product to sell, and cruise lines will need agents more than ever,” said Alcock during Barclays’ Travel Industry State of the Nation online event. “There will be more commission and more in the way of overrides.”
Alcock said that one of the “upsides” to this year’s crisis was that it had “accelerated” the retirement of older vessels which would reduce worldwide cruise capacity by 8%-10% in 2021. Fleets will also be more efficient and sustainable as they comprise more modern ships.
“The 10% reduction in capacity will help from a price perspective,” he added. “There’s plenty of opportunity to grow.”
Alcock said that while the cruise industry’s core demographic had been “more affected” by the pandemic than other age groups, they were also likely to be “inoculated more quickly than other demographics”.
“Cruise has unfairly had a disproportionate share of bad press but I don’t think it’s terrible news. It’s not a total disaster,” he added.
Alistair Pritchard, travel and aviation lead partner at Deloitte, said the extra complexities created by a combination of Covid-19 and Brexit would lead to more consumers looking to the trade for advice and support.
“They [agents] will need to help support customers across the whole journey – not just when booking,” he added. “They [customers] want advice just before travelling and whilst they are abroad. That’s where the consumer wants support.”