Specialist cruise agents say their bumper July bookings have “bucked the trend” after reports of slower sales across the travel sector earlier this summer.
The UK’s most intense heatwave since the 1970s and England’s progress to the World Cup semi-finals reportedly prompted operators to cut prices to boost demand, while agencies noted a slowdown in sales.
Despite this, those selling cruise appear to have fared better. Lee Hunt, managing director of Deben Travel, which opened its first dedicated cruise store – Cruise Ready – on June 11, said the Woodbridge agency had “exceeded expectations” during its first month of trading.
Hunt admitted, however, that while Cruise Ready had hit its targets, Deben Travel was down [in terms of bookings] year-on-year for July and had experienced a “challenging month”.
“Cruise Ready has really surpassed our hopes and the shop has been bringing in a lot of new business,” he said. “For the team to have done so well without really even advertising the shop yet is just brilliant.
“Every sign feels as though things will continue, and the cruise side of the business has made a massive difference in what was a difficult month.”
Scott Anderson, general manager of The Luxury Cruise Company, also reported strong sales for July, telling TTG his business had hit target after the “doldrums of May”.
“People have been enjoying their summer but they are still thinking about going away – Italy and Scandinavia have both been popular,” he said.
Looking further ahead to the rest of the summer, Rachel Wright, managing director of Select Travel Holidays in Bedford, said sales during the first week of August had been “very encouraging”.
Wright said the agency had seen its premium river cruise business increase “substantially” and had experienced more demand for long-haul fly-cruise than European sailings.
“Now all the schools have broken up, there are definitely loads of people left who haven’t booked yet because of the weather, but they have been researching and I think they’ll be booking soon.”
Miles Morgan, director of Miles Morgan Travel, said cruise had been a “shining light” during summer trading with ex-UK and river cruise “real winners” for the agency chain.
“Hot weather and World Cup excitement is never a good mix for the traditional, cheaper fly-and flop market, but for the more discerning customers looking to book cruise it’s more manageable for agents,” he said.