Agent Issues Amex cruise survey sees rising interest in small ships By Kate Rice / June 26, 2013 Share 1 -- An American Express Travel internal cruise survey released during the annual Cruise3Sixty conference identified a number of trends, including the rise of small-ship and river cruising and the resiliency of consumer demand for cruising. Thirty-eight percent of the nearly 250 American Express travel counselors queried for the survey said that the cruise product they’re seeing the most demand for are small-ship cruises. Megaships followed at 31%, with river cruising close behind at 27%. Eighty-one percent see an increase in river cruising; 85% said that their sales have not been impacted by the recent events within the cruise industry. “As we saw from our proprietary survey, cruising is in high demand,” said Tony Gonchar, vice president of the Representative Network at American Express Travel and keynote speaker at Cruise3Sixty. “The great news about this industry is there is a cruise experience for everyone, from the launch of new megaships to the increased popularity of river cruising. The industry has continuously evolved, and in turn, American Express Travel has created partnerships and programs to help agents meet the changing needs of the cruise consumer.” The most popular cruising destinations are the Mediterranean, with 37% of agents identifying it as the most popular, followed by river cruising, 26%; the Caribbean, 22%; and Alaska, 11%. Among unexpected destinations that agents identified as getting more popular are Cambodia and Vietnam on the Mekong, 27%; South America and the Amazon, 20%; Italy and the Po River, 19%; Dubai and the Red Sea, 4%. Nearly 75% of agents surveyed found that balcony staterooms are the most requested rooming category, while 21% cite suites and penthouses as their most requested, with 69% seeing an increased demand for higher-end room categories. Value, however, remains important. Fifty percent of the agents surveyed said an onboard credit is the most common request from clients and 84% feel discounts and offers such as free-air promotions and onboard credits help drive cruise business. “Certainly, pricing is important, but travel counselors also have the ability to drive business through value-added programs which are often just as sought-after from consumers,” Gonchar said. Follow Kate Rice on Twitter @krtravelweekly.