Cruising continues to buck any trend towards travellers booking direct, with 85% of the sector’s business still coming through travel agents. And with the increasing number of choices and innovations that percentage is likely to grow rather than decrease, according to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). The association’s marketing manager – Australasia, Vera Pajovic, held a joint media conference in Auckland with Kevin O’Sullivan, chief executive officer of New Zealand Cruise Association, this week. ‘There are so many competing interests that if customers try to do it online, that narrows the focus a bit,’ says O’Sullivan.
Pajovic says there is still huge potential for the trade in cruising. ‘Because there is so much on offer we think customers need to go to agents. The equivalent of two precent of the New Zealand population took a cruise last year so there are still massive opportunities. In terms of age, 38% of cruisers were under the age of 50 and this is growing as well. The younger generation is getting on board. O’Sullivan says 15% of people cruising around New Zealand are Kiwis – representing another opportunity for agents here. ‘Kiwis are part of the overall increase and travel agents are selling this.’ He says the growth in visits to places like Stewart Island excite New Zealanders who often have the destination on their bucket list’. ‘Eighteen cruise ships will visit Stewart Island and Bluff will have four calls this season. A lot of Kiwis like the idea of buying a pint at the most southern pub in New Zealand (in Stewart Island).’ He says new Zealanders also buy into theme cruises like P&O’s art deco cruise that travels Auckland – Hawke’s Bay.