The cruise sector is big business and getting bigger. In 2016, according to the Cruise Line international Association, 24.7 million people took a cruise – half a million more than predicted. Passenger numbers are expected to top 25.7 million this year.
Unlike some beleaguered areas of shipping, confidence in the cruise sector is high. 75 new ships are on order, at an estimated total cost of USD 48.5 billion. This will add more than 200,000 passenger places to the global cruise fleet.
While traditional cruise destinations like the Caribbean and Mediterranean still hold more than half the market share, newer areas are fast gaining in popularity.
One of those is Asia, which has grown 38% in the past two years.
That growth in Asia is not lost on GAC. Our growth in the region has been even greater than the general trend. We handled 65% more calls there in 2016 than in 2015, largely due to a concerted effort by GAC companies to woo cruise companies and win their business. There is also growth in the UK, Scandinavia and the Middle East, and renewed interest in both India and Sri Lanka. Overall, the Group has seen a rise of about 47% in the volume of cruise calls handled worldwide over the same period.
Cruise Manager Fergus Poole says there is a clear appetite for cruise business in GAC offices round the world but warns: “We need to raise our game in terms of market intelligence about cruise lines and our competition. And we need to work to make the cruise industry see GAC as a viable contender for their business.”
One way to do this is by attending key industry events like Seatrade Cruise Global in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Indian and Sri Lankan colleagues received many enquiries from contacts made at this year’s conference. Those contacts need to be nurtured and strengthened to form the ties that will lead to new business.
“With the continuing rise in the sheer volume of cruise calls, variation of port itineraries and the increasing inclusion of lesser known destinations, the cruise industry covers the globe,” adds Fergus. “With GAC’s global network, there’s no reason why we should not be the world leader in this field, but the truth is that we are still an unknown quantity to many in the sector.
“By harnessing our global identity and working together to apply it to the cruise industry, we can start to increase our market share. We know the players, the competition, and what is required. We just need buy-in from all and we can push forward and make a difference.”
He admits that cruise lines generally only tender for agency business if they are unhappy or wish to benchmark existing services, but insists that is all the more reason to continuously promote GAC and keep our profile high.
“It’s waiting game: waiting for the first line to break ranks and declare unhappiness with their current agent; waiting for the review of agency procedures; waiting to get on the tender list.
“The potential is massive, the business is there. That’s why we must remain as close as we can to the main cruise lines, and attend as many high profile industry events as possible. We need to take every opportunity to deliver a hard-to-ignore visible reminder that GAC is here for the cruise sector, ready and willing to serve today, tomorrow and for years to come.”