Luxury travel continues to recover fastest in sector, says agency boss

Luxury travel continues to be the segment of the industry that is recovering from the pandemic the fastest while river cruise lags behind, according to World Travel Holdings (WTH UK) managing director Alison Earnshaw.

Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, Earnshaw (pictured) praised the fast recovery of WTH UK’s luxury cruising brand SixStarCruises, which is performing the strongest in the group.

She said Cruise118 is beginning to perform well while is seeing the slowest recovery, which she has attributed to both the demographic of its customers and a lack of education on what a “fabulous” product it is.

More: Comment: Six key trends that could shape the luxury sector

“The brands have recovered at different rates, so the high-end luxury recovered first, and that out of the three brands is performing the strongest as that customer can weather some of the cost-of-living crisis that we are seeing,” said Earnshaw.

“Cruise118 is really starting to come back strongly and every month [this year] has got better, with July being the best month we’ve had so far in comparison to 2019.

“River is the slowest of the brands to recover. I think that’s partly the demographic, but we need to do more as an industry on educating the customer about just what that product has to offer. It’s a fabulous product.”

She added: “I think the cruise lines are doing a great job in terms of continuing with new ships and new lines and that definitely helps to raise the profile of cruise with the customer.”

Earnshaw urged customers to start looking ahead to their 2024 and 2025 holidays and to consider booking now to ensure they can secure the exact trip they want.

“There is definitely some strong availability in the lates market across all three brands so customers are booking within two to three months of travel and probably expecting to get a good deal which in a lot of cases you can do, but you can’t quite get everything you want,” she said.

“That is why we always want to educate the customer about booking early. Cruise lines are going on sale earlier and earlier so there’s lots of cruise lines on sale with summer 2025. You get the best deal with the best choice availability if you book early.”

Earnshaw went on to say new-to-cruise customers are a key focus for all three brands and agents can play a pivotal role in placing the right passenger on the right cruise.

She said: “The agent is so valuable in bringing that independent expertise, specialism and knowledge to make sure that you get that new-to-cruise customer on the right ship because if you don’t, they won’t come back.”

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