Thinking Globally; Some Thoughts About Cruise Growth

There are some key “understandings” shared by many cruise line executives about their future growth and the internalization of their passengers. Here are some observations that can help the consumer envision the world of upscale cruising projected ten to fifteen years into the future:

It is a given that at least 50% of luxury cruise guests will be sourced outside the United States. The idea that you will be able to book a five-star ship filled with nothing but fellow Americans will soon disappear. Current economic realities require that cruise lines open major sales offices in Europe, Asia, and South America. Non-American guest rations is, at present, a kind of economic spigot that can be adjusted when light sailings are forecast. Filling cruise ships is not difficult. Filling cruise ships with American guests can be difficult.

The Chinese Cruise industry is in its infancy but no cruise line official can ignore such incredible potential. The real question is whether or not onboard programs and policies can be adapted to a mix of Chinese, American, and/or European guests. No one has yet found the formula to successfully market to guests from different parts of the world. THe World is cerftainly one ship that comes close and the crossings of the Cunard ships carry a nice bix of British and American guests, but integrating cruisers from Asia is an altogether different kind of challenge – and it begins with language.

It appears that the Japanese just do not like the concept of cruising. Certainl;y, afflient, English-speaking Japaese travelers have enjoyed cruise ships, but none of the major lines seems to feel that great inroads are possible in that market given the cultural negatives associated with the cruise experience.

Guests from the Middle East are another “non-marketing” target even though language is usually not an issue. The mixing of guests from the Middle East with, say, American travelers, would require changes in food and entertainment that is unlikely to please either segment. Gambling and Bar revenues might not be able to support a profitable ship filled with guests from the Middle East. One fional facttor has to do with expectations. Middle East affluents have extremely high requirements concerning room/cabin size and amenities.

Given that it is poised to become the most populated nation on earth, India is a prime target for future growth. Expect to see more port calls in India as cruis eline executives try to ramp up their presence and image.

Two countries where new cruise line subsidiaries might possibly be viable are India and South Korea, an intriquing, and thus far, unknown cruise market.

One of the real success stories in terms of tjhe internationalization of cruising has been South America, particularly Argentina and Brazil. The opposite seasons have resulted in strong growtrh in the presence of South American guests on winter Caribbean sailings. But the evidence is that this interest and growth in cruising does not carry over intot he Europe summer season, South America’s winter.

The Mexican market continues to grow as Mexico’s upper class affluence grows. Cruise executives could likely increase the number of guests from Mexico if they really wanted to but, again, assimilation, is the issue. How do you create a cruise product that will enhance the vacation attriubutes of all guests when you are appealing to different cultural prejudices?