Cruising’s increasing popularity will drive down prices and that will be a good thing for the industry, Seamus Conlon, managing director of cruise.co.uk, told the UK Cruise Convention.
Speaking during a panel debate on the opening day of the three-day event, Conlon, a former Airtours managing director, said as cruise becomes more affordable more people will be brought into the market.
But agents said they were concerned that falling prices might lead to operators cutting back on the product, although leading lines said prices were actually rising and lines were continuing to invest in improving the product.
Conlon said there was a perception among the public that cruising was an expensive luxury that they would do when they were older and that perception “had to be dealt with”.
“Prices will fall and eventually you will get more and more people coming into the market, that’s no bad thing,” he said.
However, Trudy Redfern, Silversea Cruises’ vice-president of sales and marketing, said falling prices would not be good in the ultra-luxury cruise sector because this might lead to lines not being able to afford to offer the service customers expect.
“It’s not good for us to see prices fall because there would be a worry that we would not be able to deliver the same standards we are known for,” she said.
“At the moment we are not seeing prices fall except in some areas where there is high capacity such as the Mediterranean or the Baltic – you either sail empty or get to a point where you start doing tactical promotions.”
Redfern said the UK accounted for 80% of passengers sailing out of Dubai, a destination that marketed itself on the quality of its upmarket hotels and where people went to spend money. This, she said, offered a great opportunity for agents to sell those big spending customers a cruise holiday.
Carnival UK chief commercial officer Peter Shanks said there was no evidence that prices overall were falling and he added that lines were investing millions in new ships and onboard facilities including the quality of the food.