One of the keynote sessions at the just-concluded World Travel Expo (WTE) Miami 2023 focused on “The Future of Cruising: Trends That Will Shape the Industry.” Moderated by Hydi Webb, the president and CEO of Visit Florida, panelists included Kristin Karst, co-owner and executive vice-president of AmaWaterways, Ken Muskat, managing director of Scenic Group USA and Rick Sasso, president and CEO for MSC.
The biggest takeaways included:
— Cruising has rebounded from the record year of 2019, surviving the pandemic and emerging “stronger than ever.”
— Travelers have more options than ever before.
— The industry is doubling down on sustainability and going green, aiming for zero-carbon emissions by 2050.
— In the face of the sharply rising costs associated with air travel and hotels, cruising represents the biggest bang for the travel buck.
Each panelist spoke for a different segment of the cruise industry — AmaWaterways is a leading provider of river cruises worldwide for over 20 years; Scenic specializes in small ship, luxury travel while MSC is now the third-largest cruise line, launching new ships every six months.
Muskat said Scenic offers “unique and exotic” destinations, where guests can board a helicopter or dive under the waves in one of their submarines. Referencing “YOLO” travel (You Only Live Once), he said they are seeing a younger clientele looking to fulfill “bucket list opportunities.”
The panelists all agreed today’s traveler is more interested in experiences. To that end, Ms. Karst said they are seeing more young people on their cruises, and as a result, provide bicycles to guests as well as more hiking tours. “Inter-generational travel is a trend,” she said. “Families come together to share personal experiences.”
Along those lines, cruise lines are developing more ways for travelers to immerse themselves in the culture of the places visited. For example, Sasso said their chefs take guests to local markets to see how they utilize local food in their menus.
Another major theme is giving back to the local communities cruise lines serve. Sasso related a story about how MSC paid women in the Ivory Coast to collect discarded plastic from the beaches. What they collected was made into bricks, which were used to build new schools in that African country.
Ms. Karst summed it up for all the panelists: “The future looks bright.”
PHOTO: Panelists discuss the future of travel at the World Travel Expo in Miami, credit Gerry Barker
Cover photo: Florida Port Miami copyright Dennis Cox, WorldViews
Cover photo: Victory 1 Great Lakes ©Dennis Cox/WorldViews
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