Consumers are optimistic about their 2022 cruise travel plans. That’s the overall sentiment from a recent survey conducted by arrivia, a leading travel loyalty and cruise booking technology platform that works with consumer-facing companies worldwide.
The company surveyed 1,453 Americans between November 3, 2021, and January 10, 2022, all of whom are members of a travel club or travel benefits program, about their attitudes and preferences around cruise travel. Initial responses were collected just a few weeks before the emergence of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, with responses also being recorded into January 2022 as it became the dominant strain worldwide.
The Ready to Board consumer cruise survey revealed that more than 80% of respondents have booked a cruise in the next two years or are planning or considering a cruise vacation. Of those consumers who have already booked a cruise, 37% aimed to travel in the spring, 22% in the summer and 31% in the fall.
While there was a slight shift in the data based on when the survey responses were recorded relative to the spread of Omicron, the number of respondents who had already booked or were actively planning a cruise consistent outweighed those who “might” book one or aren’t considering booking by nearly 2 to 1.
Consumers, however, were very clear that they support cruise lines’ efforts to make travel as safe as possible. Over 50% of respondents said they would want to see universal masking and vaccination on board and social distancing on cruise activities to feel comfortable cruising again.
Value is still a major factor in decision-making
Despite the pent-up travel demand accumulated over the past two years, 46% of consumers consider value for money the most important factor when booking a cruise — more than the double itineraries/destinations and COVID/safety protocols combined.
Better pricing and deals were also the second top reason (tied with travel restrictions) that travelers haven’t booked a cruise in the past twelve months. The focus on value is illustrated by the sizeable percentage (18%) of respondents using loyalty or travel rewards points to defray some or all of the cost of a cruise.
“Points play an important role as travelers plan their journeys,” said Jeff Zotara, arrivia Chief Marketing Officer. “Companies with loyalty or rewards programs should consider expanding their capabilities to include more of the travel booking and benefits options that consumers increasingly want, such as cruise travel.”
Other findings from the survey:
Sixty-six percent of consumers are choosing luxury cruise travel over mega cruises or niche river cruises.
Travelers are choosing historically popular destinations with the desire for luxury cruise experiences. Almost half of the respondents who had booked or were planning to book a cruise had their eye on the Caribbean, with 17% zeroing in on the Bahamas as their next stop.
And they’re not just testing the waters with three-day excursions; 54% said they were considering a six-to-nine-day cruise, while 11% said that ten days or more is the perfect trip length.
“It’s no doubt that Omicron impacted some of the booking activity in the short-term,” Zotara added. “But with the investment cruise lines have made in ensuring travelers’ safety and in the new ships that promise to deliver even better experiences, more consumers will be setting sail over the next two years. We’re excited to see the demand increasing and consumers’ enthusiasm for cruise travel.”