By Doyinsola Oladipo
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Booking Holdings largest brand Booking.com said on Thursday that it is launching a cruise section on its website to take advantage of the emergence of cruises as a popular option among consumers in the United States.
Cruise operators expect record bookings in 2024 due in part to rising demand among first-time cruisers and as consumers search for cheaper ways to travel. Online travel websites are trying to become one-stop shops for people planning vacations.
Booking.com is launching the cruise travel vertical in partnership with private cruise travel agency World Travel Holdings, the company said.
"The new offering meets traveler demand in the largest market for cruise bookings globally, representing 58% of the entire industry," the company said in a statement.
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said in July that there is more interest than ever among Millennials and Generation X travelers to take their first cruise.
About 73% of those who have never cruised before indicated they will consider such a vacation, the association said. About 85% of people who have been on a cruise will go again, a 6% increase from pre-pandemic seasons, according to a 2022 CLIA survey.
The travel booking website expects the new vertical to become available to all travelers in a week. Booking Holdings' Priceline.com brand currently also offers cruises.
Cruise operator Royal Caribbean Group said its bookings during the third quarter significantly exceeded 2019 levels and that cruise bookings for 2024 are significantly outpacing 2019 levels.
(Reporting by Doyinsola Oladipo in New York; Editing by Daniel Wallis)