The announcement was made this week during the network’s first member and media event. It brings the total number of cruise operators in the ECN to 16, following the recent additions of Seabourn, Silversea and Heritage Expeditions.
330 trade professionals have signed up to the organisation’s trade membership portal.
At the event, ECN Chairman Martin Johnson and CEO Akvile Mazoraite said the organisation would deliver an expedition cruising webinar series for the travel trade during the second half of 2023. Keynote speakers will be drawn from both the network’s expedition cruise members, as well as guest speakers in areas such as sustainable tourism.
Previous sessions have included ‘How to Sell Expedition Cruising,’ which took place yesterday. Agents and cruise specialists can sign up at the Expedition Cruise Network website to join other online sessions, including ‘Sustainability and responsible travel in expedition cruising’ (June 28), ‘Expedition cruising beyond polar regions: shining a light on global expedition cruising destinations’ (July 19), ‘Selling luxury expedition cruising’ (August 17). ‘Polar matters: selling Antarctica, Arctic and beyond’ (October 18). ‘Galápagos and South America: small yacht and expedition cruising’ (November 22) and ‘A festive webinar edition: a year of expeditions, ECN top picks’ (December 12).
More support for the travel trade
As the ECN grows, it plans to provide intelligence and analysis on trends in the sector. This week, members in the network’s first survey reported strong growth in Q1, new entrants to the market and price points starting at £5,000.
Marozaite said, ‘All the members said that they were looking to increase trade support with the majority looking to educate and market to consumers on their unique worldwide itineraries, improve their sustainability credentials and develop new itineraries.
‘In addition, the majority of expedition cruise companies are aiming to introduce new tools to help the travel trade sell their product with the majority saying they would like to offer more ship and fam trips and improve in person events. One member reported that they were looking to give access to their experts such as their captains, expeditionary leaders and cruise directors.’
He added, ‘These are invariably luxury products – providing unrivalled access to hard to get to destinations, but with average price points leading in at £5,000, this is now a competitive market, no longer obtainable just to the super rich.’
A dynamic and increasingly competitive market
On current trends Marozaite explained, ‘Antarctica is by far and away the best performing destination, with the northern polar region and the Galapagos Islands the next most popular destinations while Polynesia and Patagonia were specified as booking well, too.
'Members are providing itineraries formerly accessible to just the hardiest explorers to destinations including Greenland, Svalbard and the Northwest Passage. West Africa and Western Australia are other new headline grabbing itineraries to dramatic landscapes, unique cultures and wildlife.’
He went on to describe the expedition cruise industry as ‘a dynamic and increasingly competitive market with new entrants entering the sector all the time.’ He said, ‘Two members also report increased trends for customers booking both very early and last minute – perhaps due to discounting sited by one member. All our members aim to leave a minimal footprint due to today's highly energy-efficient, brand-new generation of low-energy vessels, while customers are increasingly becoming better informed with an increasingly younger demographic.’
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