Maltese take a fancy to cruise holidays, as agents report higher sales

As the package holiday’s allure abates with travellers turning to the Internet to book their own holidays, some of Malta’s renowned travel agencies have reported a greater interest by holidaymakers to take their next holiday aboard a cruise-liner

“Cruises are usually chosen by holidaymakers who do not want to change their hotel every couple of days”
“Cruises are usually chosen by holidaymakers who do not want to change their hotel every couple of days”

Outbound travel from Malta shows no sign of abating, as tour agencies report vigorous interest in cruise holidays.

As the package holiday’s allure abates with travellers turning to the Internet to book their own holidays, some of Malta’s renowned travel agencies have reported a greater interest by holidaymakers to take their next holiday aboard a cruise-liner.

Colin Aquilina, CEO of ROCS Travel, said it was hard to determine whether travellers are shunning package tours for cruise holidays, because often the two can be combined.

“Cruises are usually chosen by holidaymakers who do not want to change their hotel every couple of days, with almost all the holiday being prepaid. On the other hand, with tours, people have a better opportunity to explore the chosen destination in more detail, while still experiencing different locations.”

On the other hand, travel agencies Hamilton Travel and Vjaggi Untours speak of cruises having surpassed package tours.

“In terms of booking volume, cruises are certainly more popular than tours. For both, it is normally an older age group – those over 35 – who book them, but we are seeing younger people go on tours too,” Chris Eckett of Hamilton Travel said. “When it comes to guided group tours, the Balkans and other Eastern European countries have been quite in vogue for the past couple of years.”

Similarly, a Vjaggi Untours representative said cruises had “taken over in the last years”.

“They are super popular with all ages, from honeymooners, to families with children and mature couples. There are different kinds of ships according to what the client is after.

“Tours are still sought after, however, because they offer peace of mind and require no hassle at all when it comes to planning, transportation and where to go. It’s all there in the final price,” the representative said, who added that it is usually the grey pound that is seeking a cruise holiday.

Typical cruise holidaymakers were described as “middle aged and elderly people looking for guided tours and cruises.”

It is younger clients who are searching for more adventurous individual trips.

Package tours might have offered a convenient way of making travel arrangements in the past, but holidaymakers today are booking their flights and accommodation online from home.

Aquilina said younger travellers were more likely to choose entertainment destinations like Ayia Napa in Cyprus, Amsterdam, Ibiza in the Balearics, or else go for long-haul trips to places like Vietnam, Thailand and South Africa.

Couples with children on the other hand were more likely to opt for the ubiquitous family-friendliness of Disneyland in Paris, or even Dubai.

“Older travellers often choose to go on tour to a European country, with some of the braver ones even booking package trips to the United States, Australia and New Zealand… but our clients are of all ages and come from all walks of life,” Aquilina said.

“What is certain is that travel has increased in popularity tremendously in recent years. This has been the result of a drastic improvement in affordability, a constant change in priorities within our society and a better standard of living. As a matter of fact, I can safely say that from my experience, the Maltese travel at least twice a year.”

And Aquilina said perennial favourites for the Maltese are destinations such as London, Disneyland and Paris, but also Lisbon in Portugal, Prague in the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Dubai in the UAE, South Africa, Australia and Vietnam.

National Statistics Office figures indeed show that non-package trips vastly outnumber package ones.

Out of the total number of trips in January-March 2018, only 18,000 Maltese people went abroad on a tour, while over 119,000 chose to travel independently.

During the first three months of this year, there were over 137,000 total outbound Maltese tourists, with the highest percentage – 66,000 – being persons aged 25-44. Only 8,000 tourists were over 65 years of age, while almost 40,000 were 45-64 years old and 24,000 were 24 or under.

Just over 6,000 tourists chose to travel by sea in the first quarter of 2018, with the vast majority, over 131,000, opting for air travel. This could be a reflection of the seasonal popularity of cruises.

Italy and the United Kingdom statistically remain the most popular destinations, with a combined share of almost 56% of all tourist trips.

The statistics indicate that outbound tourism in the January-March period this year was up by over 17% to EU countries, and by 45% to non-EU destinations, compared to the same period in 2017, confirming an increase in Maltese people’s appetite for travelling to more exotic places.

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