Consumer hesitation to commit to cruising in 2021 is driving increasing interest, and bookings, up for next year and beyond at Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
According to Steve Odell, Senior Vice President and Managing Director Asia Pacific, Australians are locking in close-to-home sailings, bucking the usual trend for ultra-luxury cruising which tends to be long-haul destinations.
Regent Seven Seas’ guests are also spending more, upgrading to larger suites and securing berths on longer repositioning voyages than they would normally.
“I think people have resigned themselves to the fact that they’re not going to go overseas until the end of the year,” Odell told LATTE.
“But they want to make some really good plans for when things happen again.”
Odell said many Australians are making domestic holiday plans in 2021 and “spending up…pushing their overseas travel into ’22 and ’23”.
“Typically, ultra-luxury and luxury products have been more focused on selling far-flung destinations, especially Europe – we’re seeing demand for Northern Europe and the Baltic particularly.
“But unusually for us we are seeing a lot close-to-home demand.”
“Typically luxury travellers have not done that – they go further afield. But because of the uncertainty, I think, and the airline situation, a lot of people are looking for closer to home, around Australia and New Zealand, and Asia for that matter.
“Japan is very strong. That [destination] hasn’t really died away at all. And longer voyages in Asia are proving popular.
“So it’s a bit of a mix compared to before, but the core destinations like the Baltics are doing well.”
Bookings for the Mediterranean have been a little slower than other destinations, however back-to-back and combination voyage options there have seen interest in the destination rekindled in January.
“The ultimate story is that we had our World Cruise launch a few months ago. It isn’t a highly popular voyage from this market, at 140-odd days, however we did record breaking sales for that long-cruise. We had more bookings than we’ve ever scene from this market.”
“2022 and ’23 demand is fantastic,” he emphasised.
Domestic luxury scarcity
Odell believes Aussies have experienced a “bit of scarcity” in luxury at-home travel since the pandemic.
“Australians have wanted to spend money on domestic travel and then have found that they can’t get bookings in the best places because others have gone in early and snapped up the space. You’re still hearing that now.”
Odell continued: “If you go to book The Ghan or Wolgan Valley, or you go to the Spicers Retreat, you can’t go on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday as you can’t get in.
He says the scarcity message has helped Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ business “because people are thinking, coming out of this whole situation, I want to be able to go and do what I want to do and not get shut out.”
Odell remarked that 2021 bookings had been “doing okay” up until last November by which time it was evident that Aussies had greater confidence in the following season, likely due to unclear messaging from the Australian government on a specific date of resumption for outbound international travel.
That and a lack of positive messaging from airlines about what they are going to do to come back into service.
Upgrade Your Horizon offer
Customers are taking advantage of Regent’s current ‘Upgrade Your Horizon’ promotion that offers a free 2-Category suite upgrade with low deposits.
“They’re booking bigger rooms and taking advantage of the added perks offered in the higher categories.”
“It’s a small price to pay to get what you want,” he said.
“I believe that there are a lot of learnings we can get from what has happened on the domestic luxury market and I generally think that the consumer is getting attuned to the fact that if they want something they’ve got to plan.”
“There is a chance people will miss out on what they want and there are some great deals in market at the moment. Deals are changing all the time and they are not going to be in place forever, and when the re-sail date is confirmed I think there will be a huge rush.”
Odell said that there has been strong demand for Regent’s high-end cruise product kicking-off in Q4 2021, when Explorer is scheduled to arrive in Asia, Australia and New Zealand at the beginning of next year.
The cruise industry expert said the Australian government’s worst case scenario messaging regarding the restart of international travel was influencing what people plan to do.
“I believe that’s why end of the year, close-to-home has been quite positive for us from a sales point of view, because I think people realise that by the end of the year, certainly regionally, we’re going to be able to do things.”
“We’re seeing good demand for that product. Good bookings. Then business picks up again with Splendor, the new ship, in the Baltic region from May.”
“Demand is pretty strong across the year. We are quite comfortable with how things are going across the board of destinations.”
Odell’s advice to agents
Questioned by LATTE on his advice to the trade in the current environment, Odell says “try to think ’22/’23”.
“Make contact with your regular past guests of the brand because it’s interesting that when you actually reach out and you ask, or suggest, it’s amazing the kind of reaction you get from the customer.
“People may not be thinking about this independently so you need to prompt them with good ideas.
“There’s definitely luxury business out there. Absolutely,” Odell concluded.
Lead image: Seven Seas Explorer – Regent Suite