The expansion and stiff competition in the cruise industry has make this vacation option into a more affordable product, with important consequences and implications from the demographic point of view, reflected in a series of changes in the composition, attitude and behaviour of a younger and and increasingly more active clientele.
The Cruise Passenger Profile
The demographic of the cruise market have changed with the new demands of a rapidly evolving world and social network. Within the last years, the average age of cruise passengers has dropped of those potential customers of this service from North America, Europe and emerging Asian markets interested in spending their income in enjoying luxurious vacations.
What was traditionally a market for an elite class, seniors and retirees with stable income, and newlyweds, has become a luxurious travel and holiday option available for the family market; mostly through the attraction of budget holidays, with more and more people interested in this offer in a growing tide that underpin the optimism that the cruise industry will maintain an increasing occupancy rate and future profitability.
According to statistics provided by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) in 2004, and based on a study conducted in the United States and the United Kingdom, 97% of cruisers are 25 years or older, and with annual earnings over USD40,000+, in a segment that represents about 44% of the total US population. And, in accordance with this same study, the demographic profile of the average cruise passenger would correspond to a 55-year-old university-educated person, married, employed and with an annual income over USD75,000.
In 2008, CLIA offered the following profile of the average cruise vacationer:
Predominantly white/Caucasian (93%) person.
Around 46 years old (down from 49 in 2006).
Well-educated, with 65% of college graduates, and 24% of post-graduates.
83% are married.
58% work full-time.
Average household income of around USD90,000.
A cruise trip each three years among other three types of yearly vacations.
Details of the average cruiser in other countries are scarce due to the lack of research and data on this subject.
Cruise Passenger Attitudes and Behaviour
According to statistics published by CLIA, around 15% of the total US population has cruised ever, and 7% to 8% have done so within the last three years. This means that 85% of US citizens have never taken a cruise, which represents a remarkable upside potential for this sector.
There are several sources with a variable influence on vacationers when considering the idea of taking a cruise:
Word of mouth (45%).
Spouse’s desire (38%).
Destination websites (38%).
Long-considered idea of cruising (37%).
Once taken the decision, there are distinct information sources to be considered when planning the vacation:
Cruise websites (26%).
Internet advertisement (10%).
Travel agents (14%).
Travel magazines (13%).
Magazine advertisements (10%).
Direct mail (5%).
In any case, people interested in taking a cruise generally plan their vacation four or six months out.
The 80% of cruise passengers book some of their vacation through local travel agents. Nearly 42% of respondents say that travel agents provide a high-quality service, and around 60% are very or extremely satisfied with their service.
The proximity of embarkation ports are a considerable inducement to future cruising for around 70% of potential user of these services, as a result of the saving of money and hassles derived from not having to fly to embarkation points.
Typical, cruise passengers travel in pairs, usually with spouses or boyfriends/girlfriends (80%), with a 29% (2008) of people travelling with kids under 18 years old (from 13% in 2002), and a 25% enjoying this sort of offer in the companionship of friends.
Destination is one of the most influential aspects when choosing a vacation aboard a cruise ship, and the most of people frequently name the Caribbean, Alaska, Hawaii, Bahamas, Europe and the Mediterranean Sea as their favourite options.
On a comparative basis versus other tourism categories, and whether a first-time or frequent cruiser, the cruise experience consistently receives top marks from customers on a wide range of important vacation attributes, with an increasing number of people indicating the intent to purchase a cruise.
Cruise prospects recognized the high value of cruise vacations, and people who have already experienced this service consider it as providing the best value for their leisure money. Around 95% of all cruisers rate their experience as satisfying, with a 45% claiming the highest “Extremely Satisfying” ranking, and a 80% of them convinced that taking a cruise trip is an excellent opportunity to sample destinations and geographical areas before visiting them on a future land-based vacation.
There is also a high level of repeat cruise passengers, with around 50% of customers taking a cruise yearly, and around 25% interested in repeating the experience in the future.