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Seatrade 2024: The Evolution of Cruise Event Recap

Seatrade 2024: The Evolution of Cruise Event Recap

Image by Took A Snap from Pixabay

We recently attended the 2024 Seatrade Cruise Global in Miami, Florida and can say with confidence that this year’s conference was certainly the most extraordinary Seatrade event that we’ve ever attended. The content, speakers, and discussions throughout the week touched on the evolution that the cruise and destination industries must embrace to attract a post-COVID traveler. A special thanks to the Informa/Seatrade Cruise Global team for an amazing production and non-stop care, to CLIA and The Bahamas, to Bill Panoff and the Porthole team, and to Global Ports Holding…all, for their sponsorship and amazing events.

If you weren’t able to attend, or did and had a similar experience, we’re sharing a compilation of notes from several sessions and conversations:

Market recap:
29.7M global cruise passengers in 2019
36.1M in 2024, projected.
39.0M in 2027

• Market demand for cruising is at an all-time high, but the market is stabilizing, growth is slowing compared with previous decade (COVID aside).

• The key to growth is continuing to offer irresistible value to irresistible destinations, growing share from destination tourism (hotel/Airbnb)…and offering experiences that guests could have never dreamed of…

• There are currently about 300 ships in operational service, with 57 new-builds on order through 2028. The market is generally divided equally between ships of less than 1,000 berths, 1,000-3,000 berths, and 3,000+ berths.

• Millennials, Gen X, Z passengers are the most enthusiastic cruise advocates, show highest satisfaction among cruisers.

• Luxury brands are fastest growing: RC Yacht Collection, Four Seasons, Explora, Viking, Regent Seven Seas, Princess, Seabourn, Silversea, and others that tout smaller ships with extraordinary service that can reach extraordinary destinations. NCL just ordered 8 new ships the Week of Seatrade and now have 13 in the pipeline.

• “The Caribbean” is one of the world’s strongest tourism brands, and the “hottest” destination…following guest wishes.

Some key issues for Cruise Lines:
1. Sustainability
2. Safety
3. Fuels (types/evolving “standards”, accessibility, route-efficiency)
4. Shore power to eliminate “idle burn”
5. Balancing Debt
6. Responsible tourism: balanced visitation, not destructive to the environment…land and sea
7. Growing NEW TO CRUISE guests, new destinations, new experiences and itineraries that guests want

The shore power (gigawatts) required to eliminate idle burn is more than many islands produce to power their nation.

There’s a growing need to spend time in good guest research in order to understand why guests return to ship early. Had they “seen everything…done everything they wanted to do”…aka: poor research (guest), poor marketing (destination). Nothing to do for someone like me? Did they have a fear of going outside the berm? Did they want to get back for free lunch?

Cruise is the gateway to experiences that guests CAN’T GET at home…why would they NOT get off the ship…or return early?!

Some key issues for Destinations:
Destinations must be the reason that guests pick a cruise for their vacation. The Destination experience drives guest demand. So ask yourselves:
• What is your plan to continually refresh/enhance your destination experience to support new and repeat visitation?
• What can you do to enhance global awareness of your unique destination?

Education of the global market is critical to destination and industry growth. Know how to activate your destination brand through stories and experiences. Know what your specific audiences want and then…give them more. Make them want to visit TODAY.

It’s the person-to-person connections (both on ship, and on shore) that are most important in driving guest satisfaction versus applications of technology. Shore-ex destination “best-of” tours are typically the most highly rated, with an engaging and knowledgeable guide being the most important element in tour success.

Technology (AR) is being more frequently used within apps to immerse guests in actual historic moments/scenes during tours, and during at-home planning. Dublin Discovery Trails was cited as a “best-of”. Also Mexico’s Chichen Itza pyramid.
Destinations must stay relevant and offer experiences/products that are interesting and attractive to ALL of your audiences. This means different levels of affluence in order to repeat guests.

It’s also critical for destinations to embrace ships’ crew members. They are your best ambassadors.

Another “Must Have” collaboration is between Tourism, Ports, Cruise Lines and the Community to keep developing and refreshing their product. This means managing the visitation so that its beneficial and not detrimental.

• Is there additional infrastructure or planning that can assist both the destination and the guests in minimizing impact?
• Are you staging arrival and departure times throughout the day?
• Are you investing in better roads to facilitate the staging, parking, and routing logistics?
• Have you streamlined security and alternate transportation methods to enhance throughput of guests?
• Are new keystone attractions in off-path or new-path locations.
• Are the ports serving as inland developers to better immerse guests in an experience authentic to that destination?
• Are you embracing and serving those with mobility issues.
• Are you work with tourism and regional communities to devise reasons to visit during off-season times to extend your cruise calendar.

Ultimately, Seatrade Cruise Global 2024 showcased an industry at a pivotal juncture, with record-breaking passenger projections and a focus on sustainability, safety, and responsible tourism. As the market evolves, cruise lines are catering to discerning millennial and luxury travelers with extraordinary experiences and destinations. Meanwhile, destinations must continually refresh their offerings to drive guest demand, leveraging person-to-person connections and technology to enhance experiences. Collaboration between cruise lines, ports, tourism, and communities is essential for sustainable growth, ensuring that visitation benefits both destinations and guests alike. By embracing innovation and fostering meaningful partnerships, the cruise industry can navigate challenges and continue to thrive in an ever-changing landscape.

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Mark helped build the company’s convention sales, event productions, and Synergy and Alliance Marketing units with his creativity, strong client dedication, and innovative problem solving.