Hays Travel aims for cruise to account for 33% of its business

Hays Travel is aiming for cruise sales to account for 33% of its business – up from about 25% currently.

The independent agency is also planning several more exclusive hosted charters for clients to join cruises, with flights arranged from a range of regional airports.

Catriona Parsons, head of cruise, told delegates at the company’s retail conference in Portugal on Tuesday (November 14), that 32% of sales last week were from the cruise sector.

She also said that passenger numbers for the six-month period from May to October were up by 30.9% year on year, with revenues up 39.3% and profit up 51.1%.

Looking at the wider cruise market in the UK, more than two million people are expected to take a cruise this year, surpassing 2019, while the average selling price is now £1,662, up by £102 per person.

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She had urged delegates at last year’s retail conference to increase their cruise sales and said at this year’s event that the shops had since “smashed it out of the park”.

“The cruise lines are investing in their ships, the market is there; the market is growing so there are more customers to take on a cruise,” she said.

“I still believe we’re still scratching the surface.”

She said Hays agents had attended many training events this year, such as Clia conferences, and more than 500 staff had been on educationals and ship visits in 2023. Even more agents will go on visits, educational trips and conferences next year, added Parsons.

Furthermore, she said there are more exclusive cruise charters on sale – called Voyages Beyond Expectations.

The P&O Cruises Caribbean charters have expanded for winter 2025-26 to offer eight regional airports, and two charters are on sale with flights from Bournemouth and Belfast for Hurtigruten sailings in 2024-25.

The programme also includes a range of Fred Olsen Cruises sailings in 2024 and 2025, and three exclusive group departures onboard Oceania’s newest ship for 2025, Allura.

Andy Harmer, UK and Ireland director of cruise trade body Clia, told delegates that support from travel agents is “crucial” to the sector, adding: “There has never been a better time to go on a cruise or to sell a cruise.”

He said there are 293 ships operating around the world and there will be more than 300 in 2024.

One in 10 holiday packages in the UK is a cruise – but there are “massive opportunities” to switch clients from land to sea or river cruise options, he explained.

Shane Riley, Virgin Voyages’ vice-president of UK and international sales, also hailed the sales opportunities for Hays agents, especially with sailings from Portsmouth on Resilient Lady in 2024.

“We are investing significantly to drive business through your doors,” he told delegates.

“You have people on your database who would love Virgin Voyages.”

Riley also said a $3 million publicity campaign will run in the UK in January, February and March, with advertising on TV and out-of-home sites.

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