Due to the impact of the pandemic, cruise travelers tend to change their habit from booking via OTAs to booking directly with cruise lines, said GlobalData.
Industry revenue from cruise intermediaries in 2021 increased 65% year-on-year, from 11.8 billion USD to 19.5 billion USD. However, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), cruise tourism has risen at a significant rate from 7.1 million to 13.9 million passengers (95% increase YoY).
According to GlobalData, in a pandemic, passenger revenue and trips are generally expected to grow at about a similar rate and with only slight differences. For example, if we consider global outbound travel in its entirety, total trips are up 95% and outbound travel revenue is up 99% in 2021 year-over-year, according to GlobalData.
However, when looking specifically at cruise tourism, intermediaries are underperforming as revenue growth is 30% lower than passenger growth.
Further research from GlobalData shows that this change in booking behavior reflects current consumer sentiment towards intermediaries. In a Q3 2019 tourism consumer survey, 44% of respondents said they often book through intermediaries such as OTAs. However, in the Q4 2021 survey, that number dropped to just 24%, and the number of people booking services directly with the provider increased from 32% to 36%.
Craig Bradley, Associate Travel & Tourism Analyst at GlobalData, said: “Unlike other sectors in travel and tourism, the percentage increase in revenue for specialist intermediaries is not correlative with cruise passenger growth in 2021, suggesting that cruise tourists now prefer to cut out the middle-man and book directly with the cruise line.”
“There is a whole list of reasons why travellers now prefer to go direct, all of which are a result of the pandemic. Some want more flexibility and peace of mind, while others have had their confidence damaged due to poor customer experience, particularly dealing with refunds.”