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ExpeditionTrips in the News

For questions, please contact Ashton Palmer at ashton@expeditiontrips.com or 206 547-0700

Big Changes to Expedition Market
Cruise Industry News

Big Changes
“Experiential travel has arrived. Those with the means to travel are living healthier and longer lives,” said Ashton Palmer, president of Expedition Trips in Seattle. “They are seeking out authentic and engaging travel experiences as they eschew material possessions and focus on enriching their lives.”

Martin Johnson, director of Polar Routes based in the UK, sees an influence coming from a very different source. “Increasing coverage on the polar regions from great programs such as Blue Planet and Frozen Planet (both available on Netflix), is really raising the profile of the Polar Regions overall.”

There’s also a synergy between the demand for product and the production of new ships. Clients want more choices in the cruise experience and cruise companies accommodating this demand, more people are considering the expedition option.

“With more expedition ships being released, there is more choice than ever before and it’s now possible to find a product that perfectly matches how you want to explore,” Johnson explained.

“One thing that hasn’t changed is that, for many, the Polar Regions are the final frontiers, ultimate bucket list destinations, which are driving demand. As destinations, they surpass all expectations and are truly once-in-a-lifetime wilderness experiences,” added Jill Blunsom, Polar specialist at 50 Degrees North.

Johnson said that 15 percent of his expedition bookings to Antarctica are repeat business.

While the demand for Antarctica continues to grow, other locations are now appearing more seriously on the radar, including Greenland, Alaska, and the Galapagos, which offers a year-round destination.

“We are finding the trend is moving towards the longer voyages that also include the Antarctic Peninsula, Falklands, and South Georgia, as people think it’s their once-in-a-lifetime trip and don’t want to miss anything,” Johnson said.

As demonstrated by Aurora Expeditions’ Shackleton’s Crossing and Hurtigruten’s In the Wake of Great Explorers and In the Footsteps of Roald Amundsen, clients are also showing interest in reliving the glory of early explorers by both land and sea.

“As more ships venture through the Northwest Passage, we are finding these departures are selling out very quickly as people are looking to follow the footsteps of the great explorers through this incredible passage across the top of the world,” Palmer added.

As vessels transition from repurposed Russian ice breakers to purpose-built expedition ships, luxury is now a selling point.

“Demand is increasing for options that pair upscale service and comfortable accommodations with active pursuits and great expedition guides. In short, more travelers are seeking adventure without compromise,” Blunsom added.

Changing Passengers
Expedition cruises have traditionally attracted those with more time and disposable income.

But with the entry of new ships and the trend of experiential travel, the typical passenger is, well, less typical. While this age group continues to represent a majority of cruisers, demographics are changing.

“We are starting to see a raft of millennial travelers going to the Polar Regions looking to experience the ultimate ‘bucket list’ moments,” said Johnson. “There are a number of operators that offer triple and quad share cabins with a great lead-in rate.”

With so many new ships in service and on order, which seem to be generating the most interest? Johnson is excited about Aurora Expeditions’ Greg Mortimer, which enters service later this year.

“It looks like a great option. With just 120 passengers, it’s one of the smallest in the Polar waters and being purpose built.”

Palmer’s clients “are excited about the upcoming National Geographic Endurance, as it will pair Lindblad Expeditions’ pioneering spirit of exploration with a more luxurious ship.”

While travel counselors look forward to growth and new offerings for their clients, they look towards the IAATO and AECO to balance the number of vessels and increase in passenger visitations with environmental protection in order to preserve the environment and passenger experience.

Among the challenges will be a growing market with increased competition.

“Time will tell on this one,” said Palmer. “Though operators without defined differentiators and brand advocates seem most at risk. Expedition cruise lines, veteran and newcomers alike, would do well to make their brand differentiators clear to the travel advisor community.”