Cruise specialist agents are confident 2023 could be a record year for the sector after two industry leaders talked up a rapid rebound from the pandemic.
Speaking at last weekend’s Clia Conference, Royal Caribbean International EMEA vice-president Ben Bouldin and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings chief executive Frank Del Rio said current trends suggested the sector could enjoy a record year.
Chris Gardner, chief executive at Cruise.co.uk, agreed with the forecast, saying: “Looking at the UK and Germany, 2023 is going to be a banger because of pent-up demand.
“We’re in the last throes of the pandemic. Governments around the world are harmonising their rules and there’s no reason why that won’t happen in the remainder of 2022.”
He said the cost-of-living crisis was the “only cloud on the horizon”.
Cruise365 director Anthony Blackmore said 2023 could be “a massive year” for new-to-cruise passengers and returning cruisers.
“They’re coming back in numbers and the process of getting on the ships is getting easier,” he added. “2023 should be an absolutely amazing year.”
Alison Earnshaw, managing director of Cruise118 parent World Travel Holdings, said she could see “no reason” why next year could not be the sector’s biggest-ever.
“Sales are very strong for 2023 – ahead of 2019 for a good number of cruise lines,” she added.
Ottokar Rosenberger, chief executive of Cruise1st parent Dreamlines, echoed the upbeat predictions, saying 2023 could be an “absolutely bumper” year for cruise.
“From a travel agent perspective, you can see the demand,” he said, adding: “We need to make sure that we continue to provide great value to the customer.
“I want the cruise lines to really look at what they’re going to offer in 2023. This summer, we’re seeing quite aggressive pricing and that is the watch-word.”
Rosenberger said the price reductions were most common in the UK, compared with other European markets.
Simone Clark, Iglu’s senior vice-president for global supply, said passenger numbers would soar as confidence grew with the removal of testing and other Covid measures.
She said: “It will get easier to sell a cruise holiday. By 2023 we will be up to 100% capacity and the consumer confidence will have returned.”
Clark said she believes most ships were sailing at around 50% or 60% capacity.
Janet Whittingham, head of cruise at Travel Counsellors, said forward bookings for the 12 months ahead were 50% up, versus the same period in 2019.
But she added that the biggest booking barrier was cruise lines’ vaccination requirement for children. Currently, families were switching to land-based holidays, rather than booking cruises for this summer and beyond, Whittingham said.
Catriona Parsons, Hays Travel’s head of cruise, predicted 2023 would also be a “bumper year”, adding: “More than 75% of ocean-going ships are already back in service, and nearly 100% are expected to be back in operations by August 2022.”
Paramount Cruises agent Marco Macchieraldo also agreed with Bouldin and Del Rio’s comments and said: “There are more ships than ever before. There’s definitely more potential as more of the world opens up.
“The more people that travel and realise how easy it is, the better. 2023 is looking really good.”