While social media is rife with influencer tips on ‘how to cruise on a budget’, the truth is cruise companies do not offer a product suitable for the budget market. Nor do they claim to. With various price add-ons to the base cost of cruises, including drinks packages, gratuities, transportation and excursions, many cruise prices will suddenly become less attractive to budget-conscious travellers. The idea of budget cruising promoted by influencers is creating a false perception to the budget traveller in a sector that simply does not cater for them.

Pricing structure is unsuitable for the budget market

According to a GlobalData Q3 2021 Global Consumer Survey, 53% of travellers see cost as the biggest factor driving decisions for travel, highlighting the importance of the low-cost holiday market. As this is the leading factor influencing trips, cruise operators would need to attract budget travellers by providing a transparent pricing structure, which in some part resembles the final cost of the holiday. However, due to the service model of many cruise operators, this is challenging to do.

It is common practice for travel intermediaries to advertise the product’s base price. This strategy drives sales leads and traffic to the company’s website. At this point, the business will sell add-on products for an additional fee, which is standard industry practice. However, most package holidays include flights, transportation, accommodation, and occasionally food and drink, depending on the board basis. Still, the essential and most expensive aspects of the holiday are included in the base cost, which is why these package holiday deals are so attractive to budget-conscious travellers.

For cruises, this is often not the case. Flights can add up to 100% extra cost on the advertised cruise holiday price, which is not what drove sales leads in the first place. As a result, budget travellers will be left alienated during the booking process  As a result they will opt for cheaper package holiday solutions, safe in the knowledge that the core elements of the holiday are included in the price. Ultimately, the budget holiday market is all about how much you can get for as little as possible. Companies such as last minute.com and various price comparison sites have carved a niche in this market, deflecting budget travellers away from cruise holidays. Many influencers championing budget cruise holidays are not taking this into account.

Cruise companies do not position themselves as budget holidays

The demise of the easyCruise brand is a perfect example of where a cruise liner has actively marketed and positioned itself as a budget cruise operator and failed. The venture, started in 2004 by easyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou, failed to make a substantial return. The poor customer feedback regarding rooms and services led the company to continuously change its product, which could not work within the low-cost model due to high operational costs. The overcrowded market for budget holidays also makes this an extremely challenging market to penetrate.

As such, cruise companies will continue to differentiate themselves by service rather than solely on cost, focusing on luxury, family or activity holidays. The story that many social media influencers would have you believe is that cruising on a tight budget is easy. However, the market shows that cruise operators are actively avoiding this connotation.

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