Advertising and Marketing Opportunities with Odyssey Media Group

Travel Agents

 October 15, 2009
ALTOUR Agents Report Cruise Travelers Booking Far Ahead

 While their clients continue to reserve one to three months ahead of travel overall, ALTOUR agents are reporting a trend toward longer-range bookings in the cruise market, with travelers looking as far ahead as Spring and Summer 2010. This is according to the latest 2009 ALTOUR Index, a bi-monthly survey conducted by ALTOUR, one of the largest and most respected agencies catering to the mid and high end markets.

"Cruises have been my best sales of 2009 and I have quite a few advance bookings for 2010," says Manhattan-based ALTOUR agent Liliane Nash.

This trend toward long-range bookings in the cruise market, combined with modest gains in luxury cruise sales from a low in March 2008, has narrowed the gap between overall advance bookings in the 30- to 90-day range and the 90- to 180-day range. Shorter-term bookings and those more than 180 days in advance have remained fairly constant in recent months.

Agents report that relaxed cancellation policies are giving some travelers the confidence to book farther in advance. As many as 80% of their clients who have had to change their plans have done so without incurring penalties or losing their deposits. At the same time, some agents are counseling their clients to hold off on booking air travel and hotels until closer to their travel dates in order to take advantage of substantial discounts. "Even high-end hotels are offering discounts," says Lisa Banks, an ALTOUR agent in Henderson, Nevada, "so I have been advising clients to wait because a lot of the rates are down as much as 40 percent."

Banks sees an opportunity for the luxury travel market to attract a loyal new client base at today's discounted rates. "Someone who might not have been able to afford a five-star property can now experience one at the rate of a three- or four-star. It's a great time for agents to offer luxury travel to their clients because once they experience five-star travel, they will not be happy in lesser accommodations."

For ALTOUR agent Jane Yale in Denver, long-range bookings are not exclusive to her cruise clients. "I have known my clients for years, and I have trained them to think ahead," she says, adding that most of her clients are done with their 2009 travel plans and are booking FITS as well as cruises well into 2010.

While the vast majority of ALTOUR agents (86%) report the financial crisis has negatively impacted their clients' travel plans, Yale and Banks are among a minority of 14% that has felt spared, which they credit to a client base at the high end of the travel market . "My clients are highly intelligent CEOs in the age range of 45 to 75 and their businesses have not been impacted by the economy," Yale reports. "They book as two couples, as families, and in groups of friends traveling together."

Banks adds, "While the luxury travelers may have been affected by the economy, they still have the means to travel and are not willing to lower their standards."