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How To Turn Risk Into An Opportunity (Part 3)

Published May 18, 2020 in The Cruise Examiner

(* This is the third instalment of a four-part series exploring perceptions of risk in cruising, with the aim of shining a light on positive ways the cruise industry can use the Covid-19 crisis as an opportunity to “come back stronger than ever”. The fourth and final article will put forward recommendations for the future of cruising.)

There is a specific segment of travellers who will never go on a cruise. It is not that they don’t understand what cruising is or have constraints that prevent them from going on a cruise. This group specifically choose to reject cruises.

This week will explore “non-cruisers”, and why some people will never cruise as they perceive too much risk in cruising, and why this segment is not worth investing resources in trying to attract. A cruise in this article refers to the modern mega-ship experience.

My research found there are three key groups: repeat cruisers, potential cruisers and non-cruisers, and each group will respond differently to the Covid-19 crisis.

Even during times of outbreaks, studies show passengers still trust and feel safe and this should be reassuring to cruise lines and industry that the message was getting through.?

Cruisers trust that measures taken are appropriate. Overwhelmingly, my study found cruisers view a cruise as a ‘safe’ holiday and place significant trust in the cruise companies and officers and crew to look after them. Cruisers are very loyal.

When I did my PhD research, I was unable to find a single person to interview who had been on a cruise and did not want to go on another one. That in itself is an interesting finding. Once people have been on a cruise, they love them and become very loyal to the product. What’s not to love…unpack once and wake up somewhere new every day with every detail taken care of?

The group that will be most impacted by Covid-19 concerns are potential cruisers who might have been thinking about taking their first cruise. Potential cruisers are vital to the re-emergence of the cruise industry and right now need reassurance for not only health concerns, but also for financial and functional risks.

They are worried about the risks of being “stuck” onboard in quarantine, or being on a cruise when it is suddenly cut short due to an outbreak and they have to fly home or worse, have the cruise cancelled and risk losing the hard earned money they have entrusted to the cruise line. They are also affected by social risk, in that friends and family may worry about them taking a cruise. The response from this group is hard to predict, and much will depend on the image they held of cruising before the crisis.

For non-cruisers, Covid-19 is irrelevant as the reasons for this group to reject cruising go far beyond health concerns. Non-cruisers worry about the social and psychological risks of going on a cruise, and these are by far the most important factors in how they make their holiday choices.

Social risks are concerns about not being “the type of person” to go on a cruise. They worry about being trapped onboard, but not by the confined, enclavic space of a ship but rather trapped by the other people. Actually, both cruisers and non-cruisers worry about being forced to interact with what they see as the ‘wrong’ people. They worry about having nothing in common or worry about not knowing what to say or would feel anxious about their socio-economic status.

Non-cruisers worry about being forced to have a scheduled group experience and can’t express their personality and individuality.

Many non-cruisers see a cruise holiday like being on a conveyor belt in a factory where they are forced to be the same as everyone else and have no control or freedom.

In terms of psychological risk, they see cruisers as being old, boring and needing to be looked after. They reject cruising because they see themselves as different and seeking real, authentic experiences where they can really experience the destination. They see a cruise as a shallow, superficial and constraining package holiday with not enough time to make meaningful connections with locals in the port communities. They see a cruise as a manufactured and contrived experience.

Some non-cruisers purposely dis-associate and distance themselves from cruise holidays which has led to the recent rise in ‘cruise-shaming’. This is similar to flight-shaming, where some people perceive cruise ships as polluting, unethical and providing little benefit to local communities and seek to ‘shame’ people who choose to cruise. My research found some non-cruisers even boast about and feel pride in NOT having been on a cruise and find value in being able to say they had never been on a cruise.

Nevertheless, there is a very small number of non-cruisers who may consider adventure and experiential cruises such as small yacht or sailing holidays. The rise in demand for exotic and off-the-beaten-path holidays suggest an opportunity right now for growth in this niche, but this is a very different experience to a mega-ship cruise product.

Which is why it is not worth investing resources in trying to attract this group, as the reasons to reject cruising are far deeper and connected to how they see themselves and have nothing to do with the typical concerns for not going on a cruise. That’s why no amount of marketing or being made aware of the incredible variety of different cruise experiences and brands will change their minds.

Resources are better invested in attracting potential and repeat cruisers, who feel the opposite. Cruisers in my study spoke about the freedom they felt onboard to be able to let go and really be themselves. Understanding the important role of self-concept can also help encourage brand switching or increasing brand loyalty by understanding how to turn these risks into an opportunity.

For non-cruisers, risks to self are more important in deciding whether or not to go on a cruise than worries about health risks or anything else. Ultimately, we choose holidays that reflect who we think we are and how we want to be seen by others.

(* These articles are based on the research conducted in the UK which explored the influence of risk on deciding whether or not to choose a cruise for a holiday, and examined risk in cruising in relation to physical, health, social, psychological, time-loss, opportunity-loss, performance and functional risks.)

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