The boss of a five-star cruise line has launched its most comprehensive range of early booking incentives hoping they will help prevent it having to discount so severely next year.
Holland America Line UK sales and marketing director Lynn Narraway admitted she had to drop prices on a couple of sailings as low as £399 this year and is desperate not to be forced into that situation again.
She told Travel Weekly: "Obviously, my boss was really disappointed that we needed to reduce prices to as little as £399 to the Baltic.
"Whilst it clearly attracts new people to cruising, it’s not right for a premium brand to sell at that price and it also devalues the value of cruising and what’s included in a cruise compared to a land-based holiday, and it has to be stopped.”
Narraway said agents themselves had complained about the low prices this year since it reduces their own commission-earning potential.
She pointed out that if more HAL cruises had been sold early, she wouldn’t have had to drop prices so low and urged agents to get behind her new early booking offers for 2014 to avoid a repeat performance.
HAL’s early booking initiative is called Explore 4 and includes four exclusive, added-value offers when booking selected December 2013 Christmas cruises and 2014 sailings.
To receive all four offers together, booking must be made by 15 October 2013.
The Explore 4 benefits include a free ‘Signature Beverage Package’ or drinks card giving up to 15 free drinks a day; a free speciality restaurant dinner in either the Pinnacle Grill for guests staying in outside cabins or in Canaletto’s for those in inside cabins; reduced fares of just £99 for third and fourth guests in the same stateroom; and a ‘worry-free’ deposit allowing customers to change the cruise up to 90 days before departure.
The offers can be used together on a qualified itinerary.
Narraway explained: “Somewhere down the line we have got to change the pattern the industry has got itself into of late bookings and heavy discounting.
"Hopefully, the more added value we can give up front, the easier it will be for agents to persuade them to book early. We have got to move away from selling on price and focus on value.”
“With the Explore 4 promotion, there is a real benefit to planning ahead and booking that dream cruise well in advance,” said HAL executive vice president of sales and guest programmes, Richard Meadows.
“These offers add even more value to the Holland America Line experience, and by giving our guests four perks under one promotion, we’re showing how worthwhile it is to book early.”
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