TW survey: Costa accident has minimal effect on agent bookings

By Danielle Palecek
Click on the image for a larger view of the complete results.More than 90% of travel agents said they have not received cancellations for cruise bookings in the aftermath of the Costa Concordia accident, according to a Travel Weekly survey. (Click on the image at right for a larger view of the complete results.) 

The survey, which was sent to subscribers of agent products of Northstar Travel Media, Travel Weekly's parent company, was distributed Jan. 18 and completed by more than 1,600 respondents.

Travel agents overwhelmingly said they hadn't received any cancellations following the deadly capsize of the Costa Concordia off the Italian coast, although 17% of respondents said that clients called with questions after the accident. Less than 7% of agents said they had cancellations as a direct result.

These numbers are consistent with anecdotal reports from agents, who have said that the direct, business-related impact from the disaster was, so far, minimal.

Of the agents who had seen cancellations, about 30% were able to book those passengers on land-based vacations.

About 20% of respondents said they felt that the industry will feel no impact, with the the largest number of agents, 35%, saying that the accident will most likely affect the industry for about three months.

One question for the industry is whether the accident will affect future interest in cruising, but less than a quarter of respondents said that prospects for cruise sales had withdrawn interest for cruising in the wake of the incident.

The Concordia crash also did not appear to dim agents' faith in cruising: more than 90% of agents say they were as likely to suggest a cruise to a client as they were prior to the accident.

Agent Roberta Schwartz from Imagine Your Vacations/Cruise Planners said that her Johnson & Wales University students voted that this incident would not affect their decision to take a cruise, and that cruising “continues to be a dream vacation for many travelers.”

The major difference that many agents have seen, however, is clients’ questions about safety procedures. Less than 4% said that "most of" their clients asked about onboard safety procedures prior to the accident; following the accident, the number rose to nearly 18%.

While safety is clients’ biggest concern, most agents said that their clients questioned the judgment of the captain and crew of the Concordia rather than the general safety of all cruises.

One survey respondent, Judy Yohe of Passport Travel, said that her clients who have commented on the incident “blame the captain for showboating, not the cruise line.”
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