Ritz on a ship? Yup! | TravelResearchOnline

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Ritz on a ship? Yup!

Earlier this year we talked about Virgin shaking up the cruise lines with an adults-only upscale cruising experience. I questioned then, if the age of mass-market cruising was coming to a close (or at least a consolidation of sorts) and now I question it again with the introduction of Ritz on a ship.

The famed Ritz-Carlton brand is launching a new ship in February 2020. 623 feet long with 149 suites accommodating 298 passengers. With two more on the way. This is a first for any hotel brand and somewhat of a gamble.

With fares starting at $4600 per person for a 7-Day itinerary, the ship is most decidedly not mass-market. Nor is it completely inclusive as some others are. Excursions appear to be additional.

However, as we are seeing across all segments of the market, their itineraries are based more on the destination and the experiences available at the destination. As you look at the destinations expected, you see that they are more in line with large private yachts, and not that of the mass-market cruise lines.

Is there a market for this?

Absolutely! Are you able to sell it? Likely! Segments of the travel market are shifting. While the recession has been over for several years, it has taken longer for the confidence of consumers to return. But from where I sit, it decidedly has. My niche, nearly by definition, is based on a lower price point than most—single parents. I know that when a trip moves into the $1000+ per person, that my bookings will be lighter and the groups smaller. I just ran a report and over the past year, my average booking has increased just north of $525 per person. I cannot attribute it to increased pricing from suppliers; but I can attribute it to a relatively robust economy and consumer confidence. People are no longer worried that tomorrow may be a layoff or a company may go belly up. The purse strings are loosening.

Today’s travelers are both younger (with disposable income) and the aging boomers (also with disposable income) and both share the desire to explore. The millennials are not flocking to the cookie-cutter all-inclusive resort. They are looking for active vacations—hiking, wind surfing, home stays, cooking classes, etc. They have grown up in a time with no tethers. They no longer work 9-5 in an office. They can work from the backseat of a taxi from their phone. They are renting apartments rather than buying. They will have more jobs in a lifetime than I have underwear in my drawer. And similarly, the aging boomers came in at the time when all this freedom was coming into play. They got a taste of it, and with retirement looming, they are taking advantage of it. Today’s boomers are much younger than the prior generation. We (and I begrudgingly admit I am part of that class) are more active than before. We are more inquisitive than before. We are more willing to take risk than before. Our homes are paid off. The college bills for our kids are dwindling. “Things” are mattering less and people and experiences are mattering more.

So yes, this absolutely will work. As will Virgin cruises. Are you prepared for it? You need to be. Bone up on the experiential and luxury travel market. Be ready to suggest and then sell it to the right client.

Some practical tips—run some reports. See who your top clients are and then look at their average spend per year. Look to the ones that are spending more. Use your CRM to dig deep. I know you have those clients. I do too. We just need to contact them!  Thoughts? Leave a comment!

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