The cruise industry is about to go into shambles, which is not the most profound thing I’ve ever written in light of the inane and tragic crash of the Costa Concordia liner near Italy.
I’m not going to get into the specifics of the tragedy, although the cowardliness and ineptitude of the cruiser’s captain is beyond my understanding. Instead, from a consumer point of view, let’s briefly examine what mistakes the industry has made that means it will struggle to overcome the increasingly negative perception of the industry and what it could have done about it.
For years, the cruise industry has gotten lazy in its branding and marketing as, essentially, they all looked and said the same things. Relax, have fun with the entire family, see the world, be catered to, look how beautiful it all is. It was simply marketing the category benefits without making any distinction between the cruise lines or reflecting who the customer is when they use the specific brands.
Let me take this one further. When the cruiser tipped over on the reef, without minimizing the tragedy of it, was anyone surprised? Taking a cruise lately has meant bad food, brief stops at the most undesirable tourist traps and a general letdown.
The cruise industry had been rising some in recent years – with total revenue increasing 9.5% in 2011 over the previous year – but that was attributable to new ships, increased prices and an increase in new bookings (as opposed to repeat bookings).
Now, comes this and the reasons why you would take a cruise, as spoken by the industry itself, are no longer important. Relax? Are you kidding? Have fun? Not important anymore.
If the individual cruise lines had given travelers a reason to choose them based on how those travelers see themselves, they would covet those brands an any declarations about the disaster near Italy would lessen the impact.
Word of warning to all: The cruise industry got lazy. And it’s about to pay for it.