Plan a Cruise Month in October will see a raft of offers available to the trade. To kickstart the month, Clia’s executive committee discussed this year’s ‘destination’ theme. Juliet Dennis reports
Destinations offered on cruise itineraries are critical to attracting first-time customers.
That’s the message from major cruise lines on Clia’s executive committee discussing the theme of this year’s Plan a Cruise Month, to run throughout October.
It is destinations that entice clients to book a holiday in the first place and therefore act as a vital sales trigger, according to the round-table panel.
Lynn Narraway, UK managing director for Holland America Line and Seabourn, said: “Research shows destination is the number-one reason why people choose a cruise. Apart from North Korea and Somalia, there aren’t many places you can’t cruise to.”
All about the place
Cruise lines are already recognising the importance of the destination by offering more overnight stays in cities such as Barcelona and St Petersburg, said Narraway.
Jo Rzymowska, Celebrity Cruises’ vice-president and managing director for the UK, Ireland and Asia, said cruise offered the best of both worlds for consumers and an opportunity for destinations.
She said: “First-time cruisers say how great it is to only unpack once and see so many destinations, but it’s also great for the destinations. They can maximise the opportunity and give guests a chance to see somewhere they want to go back to.”
The scope of destinations offered was likely to increase, she added.
“As an industry we are keen to keep stretching the boundaries of where we go,” she said. “Some of the infrastructure needs to be improved, but we will see more new destinations coming on the map and we’d be keen to support those.”
Stuart Leven, Royal Caribbean International’s vice-president for the EMEA region and managing director of RCL Cruises, said: “Between now and 2024, there are 55 new ships on order, including 10 new [ocean] ships coming in 2019 alone. That gives a massive opportunity to touch parts of the world we are not touching at the moment. The most successful destinations are where cruise lines and local providers work closely in partnership, such as Copenhagen.”
The Clia panel cited Alaska, Asia, South Africa, Japan and Greece as among the most popular current cruise destinations for the UK market.
The experiences in destinations should not be overlooked as a way to attract newcomers to both ocean and river cruise.
Kathryn Beadle, managing director of river cruise specialist Uniworld, said: “It goes beyond destination to what experience holidaymakers can have. The experiences being offered are improving beyond recognition, as well as the number of choices.”
Thomson Cruises managing director Richard Sofer reported increased demand from loyal clients for more exclusive experiences, but said it was important to get the right balance between destinations and onboard experience.
“It’s about authenticity, exclusivity and money-can’t-buy-experiences,” he said. “The reason people book is the itinerary, but the reason they enjoy it is down to the experience on board.”
Tony Roberts, Princess Cruises’ vice-president for the UK and Europe, said cruise lines were focused on improving the onboard experience. “Some of us want to make the experience come to life on the ship,” he said. “Cruise lines are bringing experiences on board the ship.”
This can include expert speakers to improve clients’ enjoyment of destinations, added Rzymowska.
Celebrity Cruises is seeing demand increase for tailor-made, personalised excursions. She said: “We are seeing discerning guests looking for private journeys or small group trips for personalised experiences.”
Agents should use their knowledge of destinations their clients like to stimulate their interest and not mention the word cruise until later in the sales process, said Narraway.
“It’s about the language agents use,” she said. “They can turn it back to front by not telling their customers they are cruising until the end of the conversation.
“The way for agents to grow their cruise business is by using knowledge they have about clients and destinations they go to. If they booked someone to South Africa last year, suggest Australia next year and tell them they can go to all these places and all the food’s included.”
Similarly, agent knowledge of their clients’ needs is vital for booking them on the right ship.
Rzymowska said: “If a new-to-cruise client is put on the wrong ship you have lost them for life, but book them on the right ship and they are hooked.”
Beadle admitted the industry can sometimes hinder itself by using technical language when promoting ocean and river cruises.
Leven agreed, saying: “We use complicated language and we need to get better at that.”
Beadle added: “If you are selecting a cruise line, you select it like a hotel and destination.
“That’s why it’s important that agents are aware of where they can go to get information on what cruise lines can offer.
Agents urged to tap into special offers and social media for Plan a Cruise Month
Travel agents are being urged to give their full support to Plan a Cruise Month in October.
Clia UK & Ireland is encouraging agent members to use this year’s ‘destination’ theme as a way to promote the special offers available to clients for cruises worldwide.
As well as offers from Clia’s cruise line members, there will also be agent competitions and incentives throughout the month, with prizes ranging from shopping vouchers and designer handbags to iPads and places on fam trips.
Agents can also get involved in the campaign on social media by sharing top tips and photos or joining a cruise destination‑themed chat on Twitter, hosted by Clia.
Andy Harmer, senior vice-president of membership and director, Clia UK & Ireland, said: “Plan a Cruise Month is an opportunity for the whole cruise industry to work together to highlight the incredible holidays our industry offers.
“By focusing on destinations, we showcase all the places and experiences we offer ashore.
“As an agent it’s about making that switch to talk about the destination and ask people to come on a cruise.
“We’re calling on our agent partners to get involved with promoting Plan a Cruise Month by highlighting the experiences a cruise can offer.”
The cruise destination Twitter chat takes place on Wednesday, October 11, from 1pm-6pm. Agents can tweet
@CLIAUK using #CruiseMonth and be in with a chance to win Amazon vouchers for taking part, courtesy of Clia, as well as finding out more about top cruise destinations. All of the major cruise lines have pledged to take part in the Twitter discussion.
Agents are also invited to share their top tips or destinations online for the chance to win an ‘Andy says I’m a Cruise Guru’ T-shirt.
Clia is also offering an early‑bird rate for agents who book in October to attend the 12th Clia Conference 2018, while registration opens next month for the Asia Cruise Conference in Ho Chi Minh City in April 2018.
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