Is Wave Season still an important cruise barometer – or isn’t it?
When reporting on 2007, Royal Caribbean CFO Brian Rice told Wall Street that Wave Season was no longer that critical a booking period, and he provided numbers to back up his viewpoint. Ever since, Royal execs have downplayed the importance of the booking period.
However, the impact of Wave Season was brought up at RCI’s most recent earnings call, and this time, Royal seemed to be playing up the January/February booking period. “Wave Season is off to a strong start with good volume and even higher prices,” noted Chairman/CEO Richard Fain.
Cruise Week asked Fain about the relative importance of Wave Season, considering Royal has downplayed its importance in the past. His response: “There are two elements to Wave.”
First, he said, there’s the element where too much importance is attached to Wave’s booking numbers: “The Wave Season where people had taken the concept and drawn a parallel to the Christmas retail business; i.e., the rise and fall of the year depends on what happens in that month or two.”
In that sense, Fain says Wave Season has never been as important as some people have implied.
But Fain sees a second element: “In some respects, the real focus we have on Wave period isn’t so much its percentage of bookings, but it’s the first time in awhile we get to see a normal booking period for our cruises. That information informs us a great deal how bookings will be in March and June.”
While no one is claiming a return to pre-recession demand levels, Royal’s report on Wave is yet one more indicator that the cruise economy is gradually recovering.