Eighty-one percent of the agents cited higher sales, compared to 77% in the prior quarter and 73% in 2016.
The positive shift comes in the most part from those reporting a 10% or greater sales increase. Forty-four percent of the agents said their cruise sales volume has increased more than 10% in 2017, up from 27% who said so last year. CLIA estimated the weighted average growth at 6.5% today, up from 4.6% in 2016.
The agents said 78% of cruisers are spending more on their travel, compared with 70% last year, and the portion of those spending less declined from 9.1% in 2016 to 5.4% in 2017.
Other findings in CLIA's 'Travel Agent Cruise Industry Outlook Report' include the continued populariy of North American destinations.
Alaska is currently seeing the most growth (51%), followed by Caribbean/Bermuda/Mexico (42%) and Canada/New England (31%).
The Mediterranean and northern Europe rebounded, to fourth and fifth place respectively, up from seventh and ninth last year, though they are seeing almost equal numbers of growth and decline in interest (around 25%)
Staying closer to home could offer some degree of comfort, according to several agents. 'People are concerned about safety, but still want to explore new places,' one travel professional said, 'so Alaska has become bigger overall. I am featuring Alaska more as a potential destination and making sure it is on my clients’ radar.'
The research also found value and service are the most important factors in guest satisfaction. Almost all (98%) of agents said service is 'very' or 'extremely' important, while value (96%) closely follows. After that come comfort (94%) and amenities/activities and destination (90%). Following those are price transparency (83%), return on experience (81%), culinary options (80%) and security (79%). Entertainment (67%) and enrichment opportunities (47%) scored lowest.
Adventure and expedition cruises are becoming more popular. Sixty-two percent of the CLIA agents surveyed said their clients are becoming more interested in this type of travel. Those clients include groups of friends (62%), couples (61%), solo travelers (50%) and multigenerational groups (46%). Agents selling adventure cruises reported 76% 'more' or 'some' interest in Alaska, 49% in the Galápagos Islands and 33% in the South Pacific.
The poll found that 78.4% of the agents are trying to convince novices to try a cruise, and they identify prospects when customers ask about multiple destinations, budget and value.
Ninety percent of the agents said the reputation of a brand and a ship are the most important factors when booking a cruise for their clients. Other important things are new and modern facilities (82%), up-to-date technology and spacious staterooms (76% each), fine dining (75%) and Internet access (74%).
Other notable trends include a rise in group travel, online booking, river cruising and interest in Cuba.
The full report is here.