Tom Stieghorst
Tom Stieghorst

The conventional wisdom going back to at least Bob Dickinson's days at Carnival Cruise Line is that cruise retailers need to be open later, and especially on weekends, because that's when people are done with work and have time to shop.

But research from Travel Leaders Group suggests otherwise.

At a presentation during this year's Seatrade Cruise Global conference in April, John Lovell, president of leisure travel, supplier relations and networks at Travel Leaders Group, said that the day travel advisors most need to be on their game is: Wednesday.

He based the assertation off traffic patterns from consumers using the Agent Profiler tool on the Travel Leaders website.

Moreover, 85% of all outreach from consumers on the Agent Profiler tool came from Monday to Friday.

Even more telling are the hours when the most consumers are looking around for a travel advisor: "The highest [activity] is right around lunchtime, between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.," Lovell said.

In other words, the data show that consumers are shopping for cruises during work hours, Lovell said, presumably in their free time. "I kind of walk around the office now on Wednesdays going, 'What are you guys really doing in here?'" he joked.

Lovell also discussed research into the time of the year that consumers tend to shop for cruises. Travel Leaders analyzed the use of cruise-related keyword searches on Google over a 10-year period.

"The search for cruise really tops out in July," Lovell said. "July being the month people are searching for next year's cruise."

As Lovell pointed out, the industry puts an enormous amount of effort and promotional dollars into the traditional Wave season, the first three months of any calendar year. Lovell said people may be buying during that time, but their research is done five to six months earlier.

"They've made their decision by the time they get to November what they want to purchase, and it's really [narrowed it to] two or three brands," he said. "Now it really comes down to promotion."

So if a cruise line is advertising prices and deals, Thanksgiving and after may be the way to go. "If you're doing more branding, I would really focus on the July timeframe," Lovell said, and he recommended that lines put an emphasis on products available in the next year.

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