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UK agents seek more expedition cruises to Africa, upskilling essential

PHOTO: HX HURTIGRUTEN Orango-Island-Guinea-Bissau.jpg
Orango, one of the Bijagós Islands located 30 nmi off the coast of Guinea-Bissau, West Africa – a region in demand from the travel trade
A UK survey revealed 50% of the travel trade lack sufficient knowledge of expedition cruising, while more than one-third of respondents call for more Africa expedition voyages.

The findings, published in the first Expedition Cruise Network Insights Report 2023/2024,' combines two sets of data from travel trade professionals and expedition cruise operators. Collected between October and November 2023, the results offer crucial insight into UK sales trends, intelligence, challenges and predictions. 

The market is growing

Seven in 10 expedition cruise operators have seen business grow this year and almost all (98%) of travel trade respondents said their expedition cruise business has grown or stayed the same in 2023.

Africa in demand

Some 39% of travel trade respondents want to see expedition cruising in Africa (West and East) further developed, and more trips offered. The range of new destinations was seen as evidence that there is significant appetite among the travel trade to be able to sell new regions.  

Knowledge is lacking

More than 50% of travel trade respondents said their knowledge of expedition cruising is lacking. It suggests a need to upskill travel agents, including on expedition destinations, operators and products. 

Sustainability tops all major trends

The three biggest trends expedition cruise operator members named relate to sustainability. 71% of expedition cruise operators say sustainability will play a bigger role in consumer choice; 71% believe ships and expedition cruise operators need to improve their environmental practices and footprint. 

HX takes the lead

Hurtigruten Expeditions is the most sold expedition cruise operator, according to the UK travel trade. HX is sold by 64% of the travel trade respondents, closely followed by Silversea Cruises (61%,) Seabourn (43%) and Ponant (40%.) Overall, the market share remains diverse, with 18 companies seeing their product sold by at least 10% of travel trade respondents. 

‘The future is bright’ 

Commenting on the key findings, Expedition Cruise Network CEO Akvile Marozaite said, ‘...Expedition Cruising is a key travel trend. The sector has experienced steep growth in both consumer demand and capacity over the past few years and in 2024 we will begin to see more mature growth with a pressing impetus on sustainability. But the future is bright. Many of our expedition cruise operator members are innovators in pioneering measures to protect the remote, fragile environments and local communities we all hold so dearly.’ 

Responding to rising demand

Marozaite went on to discuss the founding of the ECN, stating, ‘We set up the Expedition Cruise Network this year following two years of the sector doubling in size and a rising demand from expedition cruise operators for an authentic, trustworthy, and authoritative voice in the sector. The inaugural insights report, combining information from voices across the sector, plays a key role in helping understand how to best promote expedition cruising as an incredible choice for travellers from around the world.’