Opportunities abound for dynamic agents

Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas

Looking ahead to 2024, the outlook for Middle East cruise agents is filled with opportunities, digital innovation, sustainability initiatives, and the need to adapt to external dynamics. By staying customer-focused, embracing technology, and remaining agile in response to market changes, agents can position themselves for success in the year ahead.

We speak to Mohamed Saeed, Managing Director, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara & Silversea Cruises – Middle East, for details.

Growth opportunities: Middle East cruise agents are likely to deliver similar numbers as last year but not more, 2023 was an over performance – even though market is driven by the region’s recovering economy, increasing consumer confidence, and a pent-up demand for travel post-pandemic, Saeed explains. The growing interest in cruising as a preferred vacation choice among Middle Eastern travellers presents a positive outlook for agents.

Northern Europe, navigating through Norway, Finland and Iceland, is gaining popularity for its jaw-dropping nature and cold weather during summer

Destination expansion: Middle East cruise agents may further expand their portfolio of cruise destinations to offer diverse and appealing itineraries to their customers. By introducing new destinations and unique experiences, agents can cater to the evolving preferences of travellers and attract a broader audience.

Digital innovation: The trend of digital transformation is expected to continue in 2024, with Middle East cruise agents leveraging advanced technology to enhance the booking experience, engage customers through online channels, and personalize services. “Embracing innovative digital solutions can help agents stay competitive and meet the evolving needs of tech-savvy travellers,” he says.

Sustainability focus: Sustainability and responsible travel practices are likely to gain prominence in 2024, as regional cruise agents respond to the growing demand for eco-friendly and socially responsible travel options. By adopting sustainable initiatives and promoting environmentally conscious cruising, agents can align with evolving consumer preferences and industry standards.

External factors: Middle Eastern cruise agents will need to navigate external factors such as geopolitical developments, regulatory changes, and global economic trends that could impact the travel industry, predicts Saeed. Monitoring and adapting to these external influences proactively will be crucial for maintaining business resilience and agility.

While Arabian Gulf cruises in the winter get a fair share of interest from the Middle East’s residential travellers, the summer season sailings in Europe leads the demand for GCC travellers vacationing abroad. Some of the popular options are the seven-night Western Mediterranean sailings out of Barcelona, followed by Eastern Mediterranean out of Rome exploring the Greek islands and Turkey is considered new favourite.

The trending sailing this year though is Northern Europe navigating through Norway, Finland and Iceland, which is gaining popularity with Middle Eastern guests for its jaw-dropping nature and cold weather during the peak of the summer season.  



The cruise industry is constantly evolving, and the trends that are shaping it in 2024 are no exception, Mohamed Saeed, Managing Director, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara & Silversea Cruises – Middle East, tells TTN in an interview.

“Some of the key trends we notice are an increased focus on sustainability and personalised experiences, an increased uptake in technology and a growing interest in adventure cruising,” he says.

Sustainability: Cruise lines are increasingly aware of the need to operate in a more sustainable way, and this is reflected in a number of new initiatives. For example, many cruise lines are now investing in more fuel-efficient ships, and some are even exploring the use of alternative fuels such as biofuels and hydrogen. “Royal Caribbean’s latest built vessel Icon of the Seas runs on LNG (Liquid Natural Gas),” he says.

Personalization: Cruise lines are also working to offer more personalized experiences for their guests. This is being done through a variety of means, such as offering more customized dining options, shore excursions, and activities.

 Increased emphasis on technology: Technology is playing an increasingly important role in the cruise industry, and this is only going to continue in the years to come. Cruise ships are using technology to improve everything from the booking process to the onboard experience.

Growing demand for adventure cruises: Adventure cruises are becoming increasingly popular, as more and more people are looking for unique and exciting travel experiences. “Royal Caribbean International cruises offer a variety of activities, such as hiking, biking, and kayaking, and they often visit remote and exotic destinations,” says Saeed.