State of the in­dus­try

Travel Bulletin - - CONTENTS -

There can be few bet­ter ways of tak­ing the pulse of the Aus­tralian cruise in­dus­try than to at­tend a Cruiseco con­fer­ence where the cream of the coun­try’s cruise agents min­gle with key cruise prin­ci­pals. The re­cent Cruiseco con­fer­ence showed that the in­dus­try cur­rently has a very healthy pulse in­deed. Of course, lo­cal in­fra­struc­ture needs still need treat­ment. And for agents, there are a cou­ple of mi­nor blips on the pulse rate chart but the con­fer­ence heard re-as­sur­ing words about these. The blips for agents are the seem­ingly in­ex­orable growth of NCFS (non­com­mis­sion­able fees), and the “ridicu­lous prices” which cruise lines, from time to time, feel com­pelled to of­fer to achieve de­sired oc­cu­pancy lev­els. In the case of NCFS, per­cep­tion, it seems, is ev­ery­thing. Many agents see NCFS in­creas­ing and are con­vinced they form a grow­ing pro­por­tion of to­tal fares. Not so, ac­cord­ing to Do­minic Paul who ad­dressed the con­fer­ence – and took ques­tions from agents – via video link from his UK of­fice. Paul, se­nior vice pres­i­dent in­ter­na­tional for Royal Caribbean In­ter­na­tional, Celebrity Cruises and Aza­mara Club Cruises, did not deny what is read­ily ap­par­ent – that gov­ern­ments and port au­thor­i­ties are hik­ing charges. (The ex­tent to which this is a le­git­i­mate means of fund­ing in­fra­struc­ture for a grow­ing in­dus­try as op­posed to ex­ploit­ing that growth in a grab for rev­enue is a topic for an­other day.) But Paul also main­tained that the amount of com­mis­sion his com­pany is pay­ing to agents is in­creas­ing and, cru­cially, this growth is out­strip­ping NCF growth. Mean­while a num­ber of prin­ci­pals, and Cruiseco it­self, re­ported book­ing lead times for 2016 are longer than they have been for a num­ber of years. That is a promis­ing por­tent that the cruise lines will be un­der less pres­sure to re­lease last-minute “fire sale” prices to clear un­sold berths. Length­en­ing cruise book­ing lead­times were just part of the op­ti­mistic pic­ture that emerged dur­ing the Cruiseco con­fer­ence. Del­e­gates heard 2016 is poised to be the sin­gle big­gest year of growth for the Aus­tralian in­dus­try. A coun­try which was once the dump­ing ground for “rem­nant ton­nage” is now at­tract­ing new-builds. And the in­dus­try can even take in its stride neg­a­tives be­yond our shores, such as war and ter­ror­ism which are see­ing cruise lines shift ca­pac­ity from Tur­key and else­where in the East­ern Mediter­ranean, at the same time creat­ing new op­por­tu­ni­ties for agents in the West­ern Mediter­ranean and North­ern Europe.

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