The travel agent made a profit in August and says that ‘seacations’ have whetted customers’ appetite for cruises
Hays Travel made a profit in August thanks to the number of Brits they’ve “sent on ‘seacations’.”
Hays Travel chair Dame Irene Hays said: “It wasn’t the summer we wanted, and we’re nowhere near where we were in 2019, but August has been stronger for us.
“The number of people we’ve sent on ‘seacations’ who’ve never cruised before, have tried one and come back and booked a cruise for next year or later this year, is massive. It’s got our customers’ appetites whetted for the future.”
Cruise specialist cruise.co.uk revealed last week that the ‘seacation’ demand is set to continue with almost half (48 per cent) of holidaymakers who have taken a UK cruise this year planning to book another one within 12 months.
Almost half (49 per cent) of all bookings made with Hays Travel since August 1 were for short-haul breaks, while 23 per cent were for long-haul holidays, 23 per cent for cruise, and five per cent for UK breaks.
The majority of bookings made in August were forward bookings for summer 2022.
Only 27 per cent of bookings made in August were for summer 2021, while 40 per cent were for summer 2022, and two per cent for summer 2023. A total of 21 per cent booked for winter 2021, while nine per cent booked for winter 2022.
After Sycamore’s $100 million investment, president and CEO Carol Cabezas talks to Jane Archer about the line’s future
Azamara will be targeting seasoned cruisers as it steps up its destination focus on its return to service under new owners Sycamore Partners.
President and chief executive officer Carol Cabezas said mainstream cruise lines do a great job bringing in new-to-cruise customers; Azamara is there for when they are ready to ‘graduate’ to a different experience.
“More experienced travellers are looking for more than the Caribbean and Rome. They want smaller ships that can visit more unusual places. They are interested in getting out there and exploring,” she said. Azamara ships hold just under 700 passengers.
Cabezas was speaking on Azamara Quest in Greece, the line’s first sailing since the pandemic halted all cruising in March 2020. It was also the line’s first cruise under its new owners.
Sycamore bought Azamara from Royal Caribbean Group in January 2021 as a three-ship operation and immediately announced it had bought a fourth vessel. “Stefan Kaluzny [one of the co-founders] called me the day after the papers were signed to say he had a present for me – a new ship,” she recalls.
The new vessel, Azamara Onward, increases the line’s capacity by a quarter but Cabezas is confident that can be filled. “Sycamore have come into this because they believe travel will rebound,” she said. She declined to discuss targets but added: “We will be cash positive in 2022.”
Azamara Onward, which was most recently sailing as Pacific Princess for Princess Cruises, starts sailing in its new colours in spring 2022 after a refurbishment that will take a large slice of $100 million that Sycamore is investing over the next nine months to refresh all the ships.
Among changes, the casino will be taken out and replaced with a shore excursions desk, while retail areas will be opened up and start selling local products to bring the destinations being visited on board. Menus will be rewritten to feature more local dishes and drinks.
Cabezas said: “We are looking to dial up on destination through our culinary offering and putting more resources into our pre and post-cruise offering. Most of our guests stay a few days before or after their cruise anyway, so we are tapping into what they are doing.”
Azamara has secured a new UK office in Weybridge, Surrey, but the team – headed by David Duff, commercial director international markets, and including three in sales and one in marketing – is unchanged from the Royal Caribbean days.
Cabezas said: “Agents account for more than 70 per cent of our business. They understand our brand, so my goal was to keep the sales team stable.” She added it is ‘probable’ the UK sales will expand in the next 12-18 months.