Paul Ludlow’s journey to London was a contrast to his usual commute by Red Jet Hi-Speed ferry from the Isle of Wight, where he lives in Cowes, a mere 30 minutes from Carnival UK HQ.
But the battle with London commuters hadn’t doused his enthusiasm for the new role he has taken on and, particularly, the product he is tasked with promoting in the UK.
It is fair to say cruise has become a little ex-UK obsessed in recent years and Princess has not held back, dedicating increasing capacity to the domestic market, first with Sea Princess and now Grand Princess.
But as others piled into the UK, and the sight of huge cruise ships in Southampton became ever more common, the market has become saturated.
So while Princess will continue supporting the UK with its Southampton programme, it increasingly regards this as an entry point to the brand for UK cruisers, who it hopes will go on to experience its ships worldwide.
“The brand travels to more destinations than any other cruise line, which is really exciting for consumers and agents because cruise has a heavy repeat factor,” said Ludlow.
“What I would like to do is get across our brand values, what makes us different and unique in the market and why agents should be talking about us to consumers.
“I want agents to understand that we are a destination leader, which travels anywhere in the world, and overlay that with the consistent service ethos on our ships.
“Our onboard service is attentive but not obtrusive; we anticipate customer needs, not dictate; and we will not encroach on the holiday experience.”
Although Princess Cruises has a bigger fleet, with 16 ships, it is overshadowed by its more UK-focused fellow Carnival brands P&O Cruises and Cunard, which have eight and three ships respectively, in terms of brand awareness.
While there are no plans to move Princess away from the Complete Cruise Solution trade arm it is increasingly doing things its own way.
Ludlow will oversee a three-pronged trade strategy offering new technology and marketing innovations specific to Princess Cruises that have proved successful in the US.
“These are things that have really worked in the States. Part of the responsibility of the team is to make them work in the UK.
“Princess has seen double-digit growth in the UK over the last five to six years and we are now carrying 100,000 passengers a year. Having dedicated leadership in the UK will strengthen that.”
Princess Cruises’ three-pronged strategy for UK
Flight Select: This is a new online flight booking system that allows agents to tailor packages, including pre and post-cruise stays, upgrades and a choice of carriers. Flight Select offers the flexibility of dynamic packaging without the risk to the agent, and agents can earn additional commission on the cruise element of the booking as no commission is paid on the flight. The service is available within 320 days of the cruise return date but flights can be reserved before that time.
Princess Group Programme: In this enhanced programme agents can earn a free place as a tour leader or the equivalent monetary value, up to an extra 6.5% commission. Group bookings are restricted to one per ship, per region, per month. Agents have a choice of 200 products and a range of onboard incentives. To
earn a free place or receive the equivalent monetary value agents have to book a full group of 16.
Cruise Sale Weeks: Agents can allocate up to six weeks a year – no more than two per quarter – for a sales promotion. This includes reduced deposits of £50 and discount vouchers for onboard amenities and services valued up to $300. These can be used in conjunction with a group programme incentive.
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