Shore excursions & Wave Season 2020: what’s new?

Wave season is an exciting time that stretches from January to March when cruise providers put forth their best deals. This is an opportune time of year for cruise deals since many travelers are looking for an escape from the cold, gloomy weather or looking for their first vacation in the new year. Recently there has been an increase in younger demographics looking for travel advisor services as well as an increase in younger generations interested in taking a cruise.  

Considering the following stats from the ABTA Holiday Habits report

  • More than half of people (51%) took an overseas holiday package this year, an increase of 2% over last year. 
  • There was a 13% increase among 18-24 year old travelers participating in overseas package trips. This data favors travel agents.  
  • Of all the customers who use travel agents, 18-24 year olds are now the most likely to book with an agent. This is an 8% increase since 2018, which is important to note since overall agent bookings have dropped from 15 to 12%. 
  • 28% of 18- to 34-year olds have taken a cruise — a 6% increase from last year. This growth is higher than travelers over 65.

According to the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), “A whopping 55% of millennials are more likely to hire travel experts and let others take care of planning a trip, compared to 42% and 28% for Gen Xers and boomers respectively.”

Long story short: the younger generations are increasingly opting for cruise vacations. These younger generations also have difference preferences when booking, such as a desire for unique experiences and a desire to rely on their mobile phones to research and book. The influx of cruise bookings during wave season means many cruise passengers are avidly looking for the perfect shore excursion, often times through third party providers found online. The increase in cruise passengers utilizing third party providers allows passengers to avoid crowds and enjoy a more unique experience that cruises may not offer. It is important to recognize that although travelers may be booking with a third party, it may not be through their travel advisor.

Travelers are now more aware of the freedom of choice when it comes to shore excursions

Shore excursions are one of the most important aspects of a cruise experience. Traditional mass-market cruise lines have found it difficult to sustain this important piece of the experience, due to the rise of independent tour companies and increased use of the internet to book travel experiences. Previously, travelers only had access to tours sold onboard through the cruise line. With the internet, passengers can easily go online and find the same tour for a much lower price than what the ship would charge. This leads many to either book direct or through their travel advisor.

Traditional cruise lines can typically offer much more touristy and crowded shore excursion destinations, although there is definitely movement by cruise lines to start rethinking their shore excursion offerings. Nowadays many passengers, especially the younger generations, are looking for more off-the-beaten path and engaging excursions. This type of local, personalized experience can be found in greater quantity using a third party provider, either directly or via a travel advisor. But when booked direct, the travel advisor can lose out on commission and the client will lose any benefits that come with booking through a travel advisor.

Even for travel advisors, booking with the cruise can have its disadvantages, as many cruises do not offer commission on shore excursions. Even more, complex and hidden fees can be a point of contention for everyone involved.

Benefits of booking shore excursions with travel agents 

There are a multitude of benefits to booking shore excursions with a travel advisor as opposed to through the cruise line or directly with the tour operator. Listed below are some reasons to consider booking shore excursions through a travel advisor.

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More variety of tour options

A wider and better variety of tour options means travel advisors have the ability to offer a diverse array of experiences that have smaller group or private tour options as well as less touristy options for a more local experience. 

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Trusted Reviews

Ability to have access to trusted reviews is very helpful. Only people that have gone on the tour can submit a review on Viator.

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Flexibility with the Bookable Link

Many cruisers start looking at shore excursions onboard without using their travel advisor. Travel advisors can avoid this by sending their bookable links to clients in advance. This gives the client the ability to shop around, price check, and book online or on their phones like they normally would.

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Return-to-ship policy

Many of the shore excursions listed on Viator have a “Worry-Free Guarantee” which is a guaranteed return-to-ship policy. This is something that third-parties may not be able to accomodate.

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Viator’s lowest price guarantee

Viator guarantees the lowest price which gives clients and travel advisors the ability to shop around for the best price.

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Cancellation policy

Most of the shore excursions on Viator have a 24 hour cancellation policy.

In addition to all of these benefits for clients, there are also benefits for the travel advisors. Whereas many advisors are unable to earn commission on shore excursions (even if they book directly with the cruise line!), all shore excursions booked on Viator will yield commission at your current commission rate.

When booking a cruise, there are a variety of things to consider and for many clients it can be overwhelming. For them, there are trade offs between tirelessly trying to find the best deals and potentially over-spending on an all-inclusive package with limited options. Ultimately, clients are relying on travel advisors experience. A well seasoned traveler and avid cruiser who always takes advantage of many wave season deals tells Conde Nast Travel that, “This is where having an excellent travel advisor comes in handy. If we’re thinking about booking a cruise, I’ll have my person price it out for me and let me know if there are any perks included. And if there aren’t, she will keep an eye on it and book us when there is a perk available.”

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