TUI Cruises, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and Aida Cruises have sailed away with the top three cruise operator rankings among German travel agents while brand, product quality and fair commissions were judged as key sales factors.
The three leading German cruise operators were once again the winners in this year’s exclusive fvw cruise market study scoring better than their international rivals. A total of 19 ocean cruise operators and six river cruise firms were rated in 14 different product and sales categories by 233 representative travel agents.
TUI Cruises was the clear overall winner, topping several categories including ‘reliable quality’, ‘value for money’ and ‘wellness/spa’ and scoring well in most other rankings. Sister company Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, which focuses on the premium market, remained in second place. It rated best for cabin quality, routing, land excursions, fair commissions and call centre.
The German market leader Aida Cruises, which is roughly double the size of TUI Cruises in revenues and passengers, retained its third place ranking. The Carnival Corp subsidiary came first for entertainment and sport/fitness, and did well in most other categories.
Among the remaining top ten, luxury and expedition specialist Silversea jumped ahead of other international brands, topping the gastronomy category and coming third for reliable quality, cabin quality, routing and land excursions. It was followed by Costa, Ponant, MSC, Oceania, Norwegian and RoyalCaribbean.
The fvw German cruise market study also includes travel agents’ assessments of cruise market sales trends and prospects. An overwhelming 89% of agents surveyed expect rising cruise sales in the coming years, a rise of 12 percentage points on last year.
Travel agents themselves focus more on a cruise operator’s overall brand than the cruise ships, the study found. A very high 81% of agents see the cruise operator brand as very important or essential, compared to just half back in 2014. Other vital sales factors for travel agents include ‘fair’ commissions (72%) and reliable product quality rather than spectacular offerings.
In terms of customer demand, however, price remains the top factor in a booking, according to German travel agents, followed by the brand, the ship and the routing. Significantly, security has dropped back this year with 61% of agents seeing this as a very important sales factor compared to 71% last year.
Importantly for big international players with large-scale expansion plans through giant cruise ships, nearly half of German travel agents now believe there will be rising demand for mega-liners with capacity for up to 7,000 passengers in the years ahead. The figure was just 34% last year.
Germany is Europe’s largest cruise market with just over two million passengers in 2016, ahead of the UK with 1.9 million, according to figures from industry association CLIA. However, China has now become the second-largest market worldwide with 2.1 million passengers last year, a spectacular doubling of the 2015 figure. The US remains the dominant market with more than 11.5 million cruise passengers in 2016.