Next stop for the Love Boat
Image by kansasphoto by Flickr

As the old television series The Love Boat depicted, cruises have quite a boring reputation. Increasingly, however, millennials are discovering this form of tourism. Indeed, this traditional sector ties in surprisingly well with current trends among the young, which range from experiences and transformational events, to progressively nomadic lifestyles.

Observations

  • MSC Cruises recently announced it ordered four new ships that will break the world record by being able to host 6,850 passengers on board. With a base in Europe, the company is extending its presence to the Americas and South Africa.
  • Rumors came out that the Chinese travel conglomerate, the HNA Group, is eyeing the acquisition of a major cruise line. The Chinese cruise market is growing rapidly and is expected to have 5.6 million passengers by 2024.
  • Uniworld’s river cruises will begin in 2018 and target the group of 18-40 year-olds by focusing on “immersive and adventurous experiences along the Instagram and Snapchat-worthy rivers of Europe”, the company said. In 2015, cruise line Carnival started Fathom that focuses on groups of 20-30 year-olds, who find purpose through hosting onboard self-improvement seminars and helping locals in poor countries like the Dominican Republic. In a different range of the market, Groove Cruise offers the “world’s largest floating dance music festival.”
  • In the world of tourism, culinary travel is increasing. Of the U.S. millennials, 71% would base a holiday recommendation solely on the cuisine.

Analysis

In recent years the market of cruise ships has been growing rapidly, which is driven partly by the interests of the emerging middle classes in Asia. This branch of tourism provokes in many places controversy: Venice and Barcelona, for instance, complain about the large footprint of cruise ships that bring little commerce. Cruises, however, are not just expanding, they are also changing character. The traditional image of the cruise is a relatively unexciting trip for pensionados, as depicted in the old television series The Love Boat; a vacation for “newly-weds and nearly-deads”. That image is changing.

Increasingly, the younger demographic of Millennials is discovering cruises, which is changing the industry to include surf simulators, floating dance festivals and even university semesters at sea

Increasingly, the younger demographic is discovering cruises, which is changing the industry. This development ties in with a range of trends. First of all, millennials tend to value experience over ownership of goods. This originated in the social media culture in which people share their experiences with others. Cruises combine both luxurious experiences onboard with exotic places onshore. Onboard experiences include surf simulators as well as Korean barbecue and other food experiences. Another characteristic of millennials is a busy life, which increases the interest in end-to-end service models from VOD to instant delivery. A cruise, in a sense, combines a luxury hotel with an adventurous trip to different places and removes the hassle. Moreover, time is used efficiently by this travel-as-a-service because the time between destinations is not wasted. Another trend this ties into can be characterized as the spiritualization of consumption: Many festivals are becoming immersive experiences and even food and clothing are becoming items from which people derive meaning in life. Similarly, the cruise experiences for millennials provide self-improvement, spinning and yoga classes, even university semesters and charity work through docking at poor locations and helping the local population. Beyond the so-called experience economy lies a focus on transformation, i.e. people seek “hyper-experiences” that bring them into altered states of consciousness. Finally, there is a trend towards an increasingly mobile lifestyle. Vans (or RVs), for instance, are becoming hip among youngsters, something that ties in with the flexible work schedule of the gig-economy. Another example of mobile tourism is backpacking. Self-driving cars can equally stimulate a nomadic lifestyle; if people do not need to drive, the vehicle can be used as a mobile home. From the perspective of modern nomadism, the old cruise might in the future evolve even further and turn into a type of self-driving city.