CLIA chair and Royal Caribbean vice president EMEA Ben Bouldin. Credit: Royal Caribbean

CLIA forum 2023: "Cruise must avoid bloodbath pricing war"

Author: Will Payne

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CLIA chair and Royal Caribbean vice president EMEA, Ben Bouldin, has urged the cruise industry to avoid a “bloodbath” pricing war with land-based tour operators in 2024

Speaking during the 2023 CLIA Forum in Windsor on Tuesday (December 19), Bouldin said cruise must continue closing the gap on land-based holidays after some of the biggest tour operators increased their ATOL licences, but not at the cost of discounting.

"We do not want an aggressive market in travel in 2024," he told delegates. "But we must continue to close the gap on land-based holidays. Jet2, Tui and easyJet Holidays all increased their ATOL licences last year – meaning they are expecting a bumper year of business."

To close the gap between the holiday types, Bouldin explained, agents should continue championing cruise’s value when discussing holiday options with clients. "There are an awful lot of holiday options to sell on a macro level next year," he said.

One million Brits took a cruise in first half of 2023, CLIA reports. Credit: Shutterstock

One million Brits took a cruise in first half of 2023, CLIA reports

According to data from CLIA, one million UK consumers took a cruise in the first half of 2023.

"That number should grow massively in the third quarter, which will be reported at the turn of the year," Bouldin predicted. "Two to three million should come quickly.

"We have seen demand for 2024 continue to accelerate and the optics of our industry are staying exceptionally positive and strong."

Despite the positive outlook, Bouldin warned delegates headwinds will remain in 2024. "Northern Europe has still not recovered from the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war after St Petersburg was removed, and eastern Europe is still being impacted by the Israel-Hamas conflict," he explained.

The UK's political landscape also continues to pose a challenge to the industry, Bouldin said. "There will be a general election next year, which will make CLIA’s lobbying role harder with more ministerial change.

"It’s hard to make positive strides with the government when there is a conveyor belt of ministerial change on the horizon."

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