In one year ending in mid 2009 there were more than 21.6 million passenger port calls in the Americas per the FCCA (Florida Caribbean Cruise Association) study released late last summer. Over 18.6 million passengers disembarked, representing over 5 million unique travelers. The question for destinations over the years has been how much these passengers contribute to local economies. According to the study, a lot. But the burning question is how many cruise visitors who are exposed, often for the first time to a destination , later return for a stay-over vacation. The study said “maybe”, until you look a little deeper.
The study revealed that on a scale of 1-10, the “average” visitor surveyed reported interest in returning around a “5”. What was not evident was whether a “5” was composed of lukewarm interest on the part of most cruisers, or whether there is a large group of individuals at both ends of the scale—some only interested in cruise vacations and others highly interested in returning. If so, the interested cruisers represent one of the most valuable target audiences in the region.
After discussion with the study’s author and extensive review of the raw data Travelview discovered that the latter case is exactly we see in the data. For almost all destinations, there is a large group of visitors that is extremely interested in returning offset by a large group that is only interested in cruising. This contradicts the widespread opinion that “cruisers only want to cruise” and emphasizes the needs of destinations and properties to take a hard look at their marketing efforts aimed at thanking cruise visitors for stopping and welcoming them back with a convincing program that will work and can be tracked. According to Darrell Turner, President of Travlview, “We know what it takes to succeed in cruise conversion. We’ve done it, tracked it, and found that it is one of the least expensive and most highly effective ways to build visitor arriva. We’re happy to share our research and experience with any destination in the region that is interested.”