The number of UK people taking a cruise would likely have topped two million last year had it not been for Hurricanes Maria and Irma and the devastation they caused to the Caribbean, the chair of Clia UK and Ireland has said.
The cruise association revealed earlier this month that the number of UK customers taking an ocean cruise grew by just 0.5% in 2017 to 1,959,000, up from 1,950,000 in 2016.
Quizzed by TTG as to what the industry needed to do to increase this growth in UK, Stuart Leven, who is also managing director and vice-president EMEA of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, said: “I think we would have made it over two million [UK passengers] if it wasn’t for the hurricanes in the Caribbean in September as we were doing really well there.
“The cruise sector is split into around 60% fly-cruise and 40% of customers sailing ex-uk. I think we need to tell more people about our fly cruise product and more about the packages we do.”
Leven added that the “easy way” to boost the number of people cruising was to have more ships sailing out of the UK. “Sterling has stabilised now, and as long as it stays like that as we lead up to Brexit then that will help… You just need to see what the four big lines are doing with their UK deployment [placing ships in UK ports] to show the confidence in the UK market that’s there,” he added.
Leven also highlighted that for the first time the Clia figures showed that the average age of cruisers had remained flat. “We didn’t see the age come down in the cruise figures, so we have an ageing cruise guest and we need to work to bring that demographic down,” he said.
He added that cruise lines and agents needed to talk more about the “emotional connection” which customers can get from a cruise to attract more new-to-cruise customers. “You need to sell them the memory,” he said.
Andy Harmer, senior vice-president and director of Clia UK and Ireland, added: “We still have a lot of people in the UK who have never considered a cruise. The main barrier that people still have is that they don’t consider it or don’t know what it’s like.”
Elsewhere Leven said he wanted to see more development of ports in the Mediterranean.
“We have to invest in port infrastructure in the Med – that’s really important. I think over time you’ll see Africa and India open up as well,” he added, “but there’s more than enough to keep us busy with what we have.”