The internet is becoming an increasingly important marketing tool for cruise, according to new research from travel and entertainment deal experts Travelzoo.
Although the cruise sector is traditionally led by travel agent bookings, the findings show that 38 per cent of consumers now book their cruise holidays exclusively online, an increase of 20 per cent on last year.
In total some 78 per cent of cruisers go online to plan their holiday but also access some offline information when choosing their cruise, while six per cent of people do their research exclusively online.
Research from KPMG earlier revealed travel agents could be in for a tough 2012 as holidaymakers continued to migrate to online purchasing.
The latest Travelzoo research also showed the most important factors in deciding whether to book a cruise are the itinerary (27 per cent) and the price (26 per cent), with 25 per cent of cruisers having taken their first cruise only because they found a good deal.
The reputation of the cruise line is also becoming ever more important as cruising increases its market share, with 17 per cent citing it as the most important factor in deciding what to book – a 44 per cent increase on last year.
Joel Brandon-Bravo, managing director of Travelzoo UK commented: “The increasing influence of the internet and brand reputation in the cruiser’s decision-making process demonstrates that putting in place a strong online marketing and PR strategy should be a priority for cruise operators and agents.
“It is clear that cruising is no longer a niche holiday option for UK consumers, but more still needs to be done to highlight the exceptional value for money that a cruise holiday offers.”
The Passenger Shipping Association predicts that 1.73 million people in the UK will take a cruise holiday in 2012 - a statistic backed up by the Travelzoo research, which found that 19 per cent of cruise virgins are likely or very likely to cruise over the next year.
Nonetheless, although the cruise industry has succeeded in projecting a younger image (only 11 per cent said they felt cruising was not for their age group), it still needs to address the perception that it is expensive.
Price is cited in the research as the greatest barrier to cruising, with 30 per cent of respondents listing prohibitive pricing as a reason for not considering a cruise holiday.
Despite this, UK consumers are willing to spend a significant amount on a cruise holiday if they believe it represents value for money.
Some 68 per cent will spend over £900 per person on a cruise and 25 per cent will spend over £1,500.