The pandemic may have struck a blow to tourism but holidays at sea are now back up and running and the cruise industry is buoyant and in high demand. In 2022, the global cruise ship industry market was $7.67 billion (£5.24 billion) and is expected to be worth $15.1 billion (£11.8 billion) by 2028.
According to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), holidaymakers from the UK and Ireland took approximately 1.7 million cruise vacations in 2022, nearing demand levels seen in 2019. The same survey revealed that intent to cruise is stronger than ever, with 85% of cruise passengers from the UK and Ireland planning to set sail again in 2023 (a 6% increase from 2019) and 60% will do so in the next two years. Surprisingly, 70% of those who have never set foot on board also said they would consider a cruise in the next few years, suggesting brands can expect this trend to continue growing.
- Holidaymakers from the UK and Ireland took approximately 1.7 million cruise vacations in 2022.
- CLIA data revealed 88% of Millennials and 86% of Gen X travellers who have cruised before say they plan to do so again.
- Cruise continues to be one of the fastest growing sectors of tourism and various cruise lines have capitalised on influencer marketing to boost sales.
While cruise ships have long been associated with retirees, the industry has started to appeal to a more diverse cohort. CLIA data revealed 88% of Millennials and 86% of Gen X travellers who have cruised before say they plan to do so again.
Cruise continues to be one of the fastest growing sectors of tourism and various cruise lines have capitalised on influencer marketing – which has been a key factor in its post-pandemic popularity – to boost sales, attract a younger demographic and popularise holidays at sea.
Cruise campaigns analysis
In the past year, influencers including writer Ateh Jewel and travel creator Hannah Taft have worked with P&O Cruises to document their trips overseas while former Love Islander Aaron Francis partnered with Royal Caribbean Europe to share highlights from his holiday on the Symphony of the Seas package. Travel blogger Kirsty Leanne Colclough teamed up with Princess Cruises to promote size inclusivity while fitness creator Kalia Lai and former Love Islander Millie Court collaborated with Virgin Voyages to promote its age diversity.
According to CORQ data, the most engaging sponsored post in the past 12 months tagged #cruise was by lifestyle creator Brogan Mooney who documented her Mediterranean holiday with P&O Cruises (4%). Next is travel influencer Sandy Breitmeier and her husband Gurj Sohanpal who spent nine days on a cruise with MSC Cruises sailing around Greece, Turkey and Italy (1%). Also in the top ten is author and vlogger Louise Pentland who attended the UK premiere of P&O Cruises’ new headliner show, Greatest Days (1%).
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While the cruise industry has demonstrated an appetite for influencer partnerships, travel creator Kirsty Leanne Colclough recently highlighted contract issues and encouraged talent working with Virgin Voyages through Trending Travel to check the small print. Colclough noted: “The stuff they’re asking for is worth ££££ and compromises any future contract you may have with a cruise company indefinitely.” She shared she was removed from the campaign after questioning her contract.
Travel creator Jessica Dante posted in support of Colclough and added: “I honestly think this is one of the biggest problems we have [in] the influencer industry at the moment.”
While many holiday-goers are still choosing to set sail – with many younger travellers influenced by sponsored content – concerns highlighted by Colclough might prompt other creators to think twice about future contracts, which could disrupt the industry’s growth.
Others have highlighted environmental concerns following a boom in the cruise industry. Dubbed “floating cities”, research found a medium-sized cruise ship spews greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of 12,000 cars, while eco-conscious travellers have accused big industry players of investing little in decarbonisation. While speciality cruise line Hurtigruten claims to have built its last fossil fuel-powered ship (and unveiled details about the technologies it’s testing in pursuit of the world’s first zero-emission cruise ship) which could prompt other industry giants to do the same, change won’t materialise anytime soon.
Following a growing customer desire for more sustainable travel, brands will have to adapt soon if holidays at sea are to continue on this trajectory and prioritise long-term influencer marketing to tap into a younger generation in order to continue boosting sales.
By Abby Oldroyd, CORQ news and features writer. Picture credit: Sandy Breitmeier via Instagram