Since I first joined the cruise industry, I have witnessed the sector growing from strength to strength. What was once considered a holiday for the elderly and an inflexible holiday choice has, and continues to, revolutionise itself. And this change has resulted in a much broader spectrum of audiences being drawn to consider cruise – since 1997 cruise passenger numbers have grown by 636,000.
This growth in passenger numbers has spurred the industry on. Not only are cruise lines sailing to more new destinations year on year, opening a world of possibilities to holiday makers, but they have also taken it upon themselves to meet the strong demand with even more supply. In 2019 alone, the industry will be delivering a massive total of 21 new ships – demonstrating the confidence that the industry has in its continued growth. Something which, when anticipating another record-breaking year in passenger numbers in 2018, is encouraging.
So, what does this mean for the cruise lines when it comes to the communications landscape? Well, aside from the excitement of new product launches, the competition to attract passengers has never been more tough. Lines need to stand out from the crowd to fill the extra capacity that they are bringing to market.
Having had 25 years’ experience working for brands in the travel and leisure industry, with 16 of those working with Norwegian Cruise Line, here are our top five tips for cruise lines in 2019:
- Think outside the box
With 21 new ships being delivered next year, your launch needs to stand out above the crowd. You don’t need to just attract your top media representatives, but also travel industry professionals who continue to be the mouthpiece for cruise on the front line. It is not possible to simply expect audiences to attend, they take enticing and you need to make sure that they know your ship launch is not to be missed.
- Content is king
It’s all well and good bringing a beautiful shiny new ship to market, but you need to arm yourself with the tools to bring the ship to life on the page. Set aside budget and time to shoot both product and lifestyle photography as well as video content to showcase your product to those who can’t see it in real life. Create on-brand graphics that tell the story of your ships and the experience they provide guests, and put together fact sheets so that the media and travel trade have everything they need to tell their audiences about your brand and your vessels.
- Seek balance
New ships are exciting, but the older vessels still need filling, and the additional capacity coming to market over the next few years means this is more important that ever. So, ensure that your communications programmes place a focus on ongoing brand reputation and awareness activities, shining a light on all your offerings. Because let’s face it, all ships are different, and all customers are different, so ensure they can find out about the ship and itinerary that suits them best.
- It’s not just a ship launch thing
Whilst ship launches provide a reason to engage with the media and showcase your product, journalists to be nurtured all year round. They are giving their readers their recommendations for holidays 52 weeks a year and for your brand and product to be in the mix you need to invest the time in getting to know them whilst helping them to get to know your offering.
- Know your audience
With such a broad brand, product and itinerary offering out there you simply cannot be all things to all people. To achieve real audience cut through and influence bookings, you need to truly understand who your core market is and devise a communications plan that will tell your story in the right way to appeal to their wants and needs. By understanding your audiences, you can pin down the influencers that reach them – and these influencers are the journalists who talk to them but also the social media influencers who have become a powerful source of inspiration for consumers.
To learn more about the cruise landscape, check out our infographic below.