Virtuoso forecasts ‘bumper year’ for luxury cruising

Expedition leads the way in booking demand in 2022 as sales double

The Australian and New Zealand high-end cruise market thrived in 2022 and touchstones suggest it won’t abate in 2023, data highlighted at the 2023 Virtuoso Owner-Managers Forum in Fiji shows.

On a like-for-like comparison of advance cruise bookings made by Virtuoso travel advisors from this region between 2019 (for sailings in 2020) versus 2022 (for sailings in 2023), there has been a 27% increase in forward reservations. Figures also show a 7% drop in Virtuoso non-preferred ‘mass market’ cruising from frontline sellers in the luxury travel network.

Addressing delegates on the opening night of Virtuoso Forum at Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa, Fiona Dalton, GM Australia and New Zealand of Virtuoso said the data showed the cruise sector was “continuing its strong and vital recovery”.

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Advance cruise bookings for Virtuoso were up 129% in the Premium segment of cruising, up 133% in Luxury, 143% for river cruising and more than double (219%) in the expedition space.

“All indicators suggest a bumper year for the cruise category of a very strong year of recovery in 2022,” Dalton told around 200 attendees of the first offshore Virtuoso AU NZ Forum since 2019.

That message was carried over into a panel discussion at the Forum mediated by Anthony Goldman,  Chair of the Virtuoso Global Member Advisory Board who reiterated that “luxury cruising has been the standout category over the last 12 months”, with the average age of luxury cruise clients declining.

To verify that feedback, Goldman called on live input from attendees on the topic of trends and changing cruise demographics, through the Slido app, to get a gauge of the average age of new luxury cruise clients, to see if that had any influence on the surge in expedition sailings.

The Slido survey indicated that by far, the bulk of bookings (70%) was coming from 50-65 year demographic, followed by 23% within the ages of 35-50; then 5% in the 65-80 year year bracket, and just 1% under 35.

From the panel, Chris Austin, Chief Sales Officer for Explora Journeys, concurred the average age of the luxury cruise segment was is in the mid-to high-60s, and spoke of the opportunity cruising as a whole presents to travel advisors.

“It’s true the guest demographic has aged and we have got to find new guests. Just 3% of the world’s travellers cruise whereas 97% take a luxury land experience.”

Chris Austin, Chief Sales Officer, Explora Journeys

“The opportunity to move that luxury land lover to an ocean experience is right there,” Austin said, with an estimated growth in luxury ocean cruise capacity of up to 175% between now and 2027.

“We’ve got a huge opportunity. We’ve got the growth in capacity, we’ve got tremendous value and they deliver an incredible experience.

“There’s no reason that if you’re not selling cruise today, then make sure you’re selling it tomorrow because it’s a fantastic opportunity,” Austin said.

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