Cruise ship on the water

Bringing in the cruise crowd

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The cruise industry might not be your first port of call for new business, but don’t assume cruise passengers are out of reach for hotels. There’s plenty of opportunity to attract these travellers, and potentially huge reward if you do so. Click. explores

Often described as floating resorts, cruise ships offer an all-encompassing holiday. Accommodation, activities, shows, shops and a plethora of food and drink is available on board most ships these days, leaving little need for guests to disembark. But this all-inclusive experience doesn’t mean there’s no room for actual, land-based hotels to get in on the action.

While the opportunity for hotels might not be immediately obvious, there is great reward to be gained from marketing to cruise passengers for pre- and post-cruise stays. “Many cruise guests book to stay in a destination pre- or post-cruise,” explains the Cruise Lines International Association’s UK and Ireland director, Andy Harmer.

“Staying in a hotel for one to two nights before a cruise is particularly popular, especially if the destination is long-haul as it gives guests time to adjust to the new time zone.”

What’s the state of the cruise industry?

The number of cruise passengers is simply staggering. According to data from the CLIA, it’s expected that 30 million cruises will be taken globally this year, and last year in the UK and Ireland alone, the number of people on cruises broke the two million mark for the first time in history. Figures cited in a report by the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association say that in 2016, the industry had a US$117bn in total global economic impact.

Cruise ship on the water

Photo: Vidar Nordli Mathisen

“The bit that gets me, though,” says Vicky Mayer, editor of World of Cruising magazine, “is that 96% of UK holidaymakers aren’t cruising. So there’s a great opportunity for the industry to tap into that.” And in turn, even more opportunity for hotels.

Who are cruise passengers and why should we care about them?

“Cruisers tend to be in that golden period between 50 and 70, where the kids are grown up and they might have a final salary pension,” explains Mayer. “So people are really spending their money on travelling and cruises.” With the average spend on a cruise at £4,500 (US$5,800) per person at Destinology, an online travel agent, it’s clear the cruise passenger has cash to splash, and isn’t shy about doing so. “People are treating cruises as that ‘trip of a lifetime’,” she says.

Harmer describes cruise passengers as tech-savvy and adventurous – they want to stay connected, but also be able to immerse themselves in a destination. They aren’t your typical fly-and-flop passenger. This is great for hotels in port cities, as it’s likely cruise guests will want to explore their local surroundings before embarking on the cruise itself.

There’s enormous brand loyalty within the cruise industry, too – Mayer estimates that around 70% of people will book with the same cruise line over and over again. She reckons this could also apply with hotels, as guests returning to the same ports will likely book the same hotels providing they’ve had a good experience. “They’re a little bit of an untapped market in terms of hotels. You treat them right, they will come back.”

What do cruise passengers want or need from hotels?

It’s this ‘treating them right’ that Mayer says is key to attracting, and retaining, cruise passengers. “Cruise passengers really expect first class and personal service because that’s what you get on a cruise. They’d expect a really good concierge and someone greeting them on arrival – old fashioned hotel service really.”

In order to draw them in, in the first place, though, cruise-specific packages help. It pays to understand the cruise industry in your area, know which cruise lines come in and out and understand the timetables so you can design packages around it.

Harmer explains that many cruises dock in early and passengers can be required to disembark by 8 or 9am. “Therefore, if they are staying in a hotel post-cruise, the option of an early check-in would be extremely appreciated.”

“Offering guests small guide books about the local destination could also work well so guests can learn about the history and culture about the port city,” he says.

Providing free transfers to and from the ports can be a huge draw

Transfers are a big thing, too. Getting to and from a ship quickly and on time is essential for cruisers, so providing free transfers to and from the ports can be a huge draw. The Mayflower Park Hotel in Seattle, for example, provides a shuttle to and from pier 66 and 91 where the cruises leave from.

“Cruise guests seem to appreciate the shuttle transportation and mention this frequently to our concierge staff,” says Director of Marketing & Communications for the hotel, Stacia Williams. “Our seasoned staff members have worked with cruise guests throughout the years and know where to guide them for the best Seattle pre/post trips. Word of mouth and online reviews from our happy cruise guests have helped us build a strong reputation as well as a solid cruise segment of hotel guests.”

Beyond pre- and post-cruise stays, there are other opportunities for hotels to bring cruise passengers in. Offering discounts on meals in your hotel restaurant, for example, could encourage those exploring a new city to come and try your food, or in beach resort areas, offering daytime access to a private hotel beach could well bring in good business. The Allegro Cozumel in Mexico, for example, has their “Spend a Day” resort day pass package that grants travellers access to the property from 9–5pm. Just 15 minutes from the port, it’s an ideal place to soak up the sun on the beach.

Ultimately, there are endless opportunities with the cruise crowd providing you can create unique and valuable packages and experience for the passengers. The key, though, is understanding the market you’re in.

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Hero image: credit to Katarzyna Ostrowska

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The CLIA says that 30 million cruises will be taken in 2019
There’s opportunity for hotels to create loyal, returning customers by bringing in cruise passengers for pre- or post-cruise stays
Service is key – cruise passengers expect a high standard of service throughout their trip, not just on a ship, and they’re willing to pay for it
Adding simple services like port transfers can be incredibly attractive to the cruise crowd
It’s essential to understand your market, the cruise lines that depart from your local port and the timetables they work to