The specialism of the market should help agents succeed, says Imagine Cruising chief executive Robin Deller

You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

This quote, which I have on the windows of my office, comes from French author and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, André Gide.

The message is true of the strategy we aim to deliver every day, and very apt for the cruise industry. So what might your strategy be if you are looking to evolve your company’s position in the cruise industry, which is set to grow for the foreseeable future?

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The average selling price of a cruise holiday is typically higher than land-based alternatives, and customers tend to book much further in advance.

The latter means you can see your gross margin trend evolve, which puts you in a strong position to react to consumer trends, positive or negative. This has been exceptionally helpful over the past three years with the Brexit cloud hanging over us, which has made business far less predictable.

Data is key

At Imagine, we have altered our marketing strategy to align with booking trends. This has allowed us to navigate our way through without impacting profitability.

Data is key. Without it, the longer booking window is no more helpful than a shorter period. Cruise sellers should look at the customer journey to see where they can collect data, then simplify it.

Everything from name, age and address, to the number of previous bookings, cabin types, average booking price and duration of cruise can be useful.

You will see trends if you review this data after a month, six months, a year or longer. This will tell you what your customers want and when they want it – and if you follow the results you will hit the target with your messaging way more often. It will take time, but it is essential to gain this knowledge.

If the data you have captured suggests your customers prefer a certain cruise line or destination, focus your knowledge in this area so you can be a guru to your existing customer base. If the results are different from what you expected, embrace them. Change your product and marketing strategy to align with the results and keep gaining more data.

Cruising is a gift

People talk about the cruise industry being a specialist market as if it were a hindrance. It is the opposite – it should help you succeed. It does, however, require an investment of time to gain specific knowledge about cruise lines, ships and what each one offers, as well as how cruising differentiates from land-based holidays.

The industry often talks about growing the new-to-cruise market. What prevents non-cruisers from taking the leap is a lack of understanding. Once you have gained your own knowledge, you will see it is clear there is a cruise for everyone when you align customers’ needs with the choices available.

When marketing, you’ll see talking to non-cruisers needs to be more generic than to cruisers. Test different concepts and analyse the results to see which messages work and which don’t.

Cruise is a gift to travel agents. If you invest time and effort, you’ll learn how to unwrap the present.