New ships are helping to drive bookings

“I’m optimistic versus bullish. Last year the entire industry went into the New Year bullish and we were overconfident,” said Matthew Eichhorst, president, Expedia CruiseShipCenters, which is set to open about 37 new stores in North America by the end of the year.

“This year has more of a feeling that anything can happen, and we are optimistic with what we are seeing. I wouldn’t rule it out being lumpy, we need to get through this election and have further stability.”

As the industry charged into 2016, Eichhorst said global events zapped momentum.

“In general it’s been pretty healthy, with nice yield increases as well,” he said of 2017, but also noting there was softness in close-in Q4 bookings in 2016.

“Pricing has held but a couple of suppliers got nervous for Q4,” Eichhorst continued. “The low pricing in the market fueled a bit of a frenzy.”

Among the regions, he noted the Caribbean was “doing well” with global uncertainty and Alaska closed out what he called a “fantastic” 2016 season.

With Expedia CruiseShipCenters making its bread and butter on premium and contemporary cruises, Eichhorst said that the expedition segment had a nice growth curve, but was small overall.

“It’s not material for us,” he explained. “It’s exciting to see new destinations for the person that has cruised, but it still does not even compare to the size of the river market, which is also a small market.”

Overall, the huge orderbook will be a good thing, with new ships invigorating marketing and buzz, and the arrival of Virgin Voyages will be good for everyone, Eichhorst advised.

“People are traveling in groups, and that is a huge growth area for us,” he said.

 

Go in-depth with an expanded version of this story and more on the North American market, in the Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine, Winter 2016-2017, due out Jan. 2. Subscribe today.