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According to the latest consumer survey prepared for CLIA, Americans are not only increasingly aware of cruise vacations, but are strongly interested in either a repeat cruise or trying one for the first time.
The 2011 Cruise Market Profile Study conducted by TNS surveyed more than 1,300 past cruisers and non-cruisers to determine vacation preferences and attitudes, plans for future vacationing, spending patterns, travel agent usage and other topics. Key influencers in selecting a cruise vacation were ranked as follows: the destination (35 percent), overall experience (19 percent), the ship (12 percent), the cost (23 percent) and available facilities such as a spa, gym, children facilities, etc. (11 percent). CLIA forecasts that there will be 16 million cruise passengers in 2011, up from 15 million last year.
CLIA’s figures indicate that of the 304 million people in the U.S., 73 million have cruised. Overall, almost one in four (24 percent) of the total U.S. population has cruised at some point in their lives and 11 percent has cruised in the past three years.
The general profile of the 2011 cruise vacationer is upscale (median household income of $97,000), with a median age of 48 and a solid education (76 percent are college graduates). While cruise customer demographics and preferences vary by cruise line and the segments of cruise travel, they typically travel in pairs, with 80 percent traveling with a spouse. Thirty-three percent travel with children, 19 percent travel with friends and 18 percent travel with other (non-child) family members.
Seventy-seven percent of past cruisers expressed interest in a cruise in the next three years and 50 percent of non-cruise vacationers expressed an interest in taking their first cruise within the next three years. Overall satisfaction rates are at 94 percent, and cruises are among the leaders in “extreme satisfaction” at 45 percent.
Consumers responding to the study tended to view all vacation categories as somewhat expensive, but most viewed cruises as a superior value. Nearly twice as many (17 percent) equate cruising with very high value as compared to land-based vacations (9 percent). Among past cruise vacationers, the gap is even more dramatic: 21 percent versus 8 percent.
Of respondents who provided information about their last cruise, 60 percent have cruised in the past and 40 percent were first-time cruisers, indicating that the cruise industry continues to attract new guests.
Of those who expressed an interest (definitely/probably) in taking a cruise in the next three years, 40 percent of those intending to take a first cruise indicated a three- to five-day cruise choice and the average choice was 7½ days.
While there were variations by cruise line and market segment, the top 10 list of places consumers plan to take their next cruise vacation are the Caribbean, Alaska, the Bahamas, Hawaii, Bermuda, the Mediterranean/Greek Islands, Europe, the Panama Canal, Canada/New England and Mexico. More than four out of five (82 percent) agreed that a cruise provides a good way to sample destinations that they may wish to visit again.
Cruisers are more likely to use the services of a travel agent than non-cruise vacationers (68 percent versus 45 percent). Ninety-three percent of cruisers express satisfaction with their travel agent, including nearly 60 percent expressing very/extreme satisfaction. Agents remain the distribution channel offering the best service, according to respondents, and 66 percent of consumers say professional designations encourage them to use an agent.