Expedition Growth Brings ‘More Opportunity’

Aaron Russ

“There is obvious growth in the market, and with growth, there is more opportunity for diversification. We are starting to see a bigger range of options,” said Aaron Russ, general manager at Wild Earth Travel in New Zealand, specializing in expedition cruises.

Wild Earth is owned and operated by expedition team leaders, and works with some 50 operators to give clients a range of options.

Russ said that the luxury end of the market was really developing, offering remote destinations in the comfort of a high-end vessel.

“At the other side, there is more opportunity for operators that are focusing on the activity side of things to differentiate their product,” Russ explained.

Consistent growth and interest are coming from guests looking to book voyages to Antarctica, and as the expedition fleet grows, so does awareness for the Arctic.

"That is where we are seeing the greatest increase in new itineraries and options,” Russ said.

“Companies like Ponant are doing very well in the luxury space and there are others coming into the market.”

At the other end of the pyramid, he said operators such as Adventure Canada, Heritage Expeditions and Polar Quest offer unique, local experiences with more a traditional expedition flair.

Current trends also include strong bookings and pricing for Northwest and Northeast Passage transits.

“Those seem to be the flavor of the month,” Russ continued.

Tropical destinations, something Ponant has basically pioneered, are also picking up steam, including deployments touching Madagascar or Easter Island, for instance.

Being on the front lines selling expedition cruises, Russ did admit capacity growth is a question.

“There is definitely demand; if there is there demand at the price point they are commanding (with new capacity coming) remains to be seen. It will be a big change for the industry from what it has been historically.

“It’s a bit of chicken and egg. From a client perspective, there is definitely strong interest and it’s more accessible than ever to explore remote and seldom visited areas.

“From operators’ point of view there is a significant premium to be charged for expedition experiences … looking at a newbuild in the space appears quite lucrative.”

Most clients calling Wild Earth are destination focused, with only a handful “brand aware,” Russ explained.

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About the Expedition Market Report:

The 2019 Expedition Market Report by Cruise Industry News is a comprehensive overview of the booming expedition market, profiling 39 operators, over 40 new ships and projecting capacity growth through 2027. The 196-page PDF is a deep dive into all aspects of the expedition cruise market.

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