TTG Travel Hero Jamie Loizou recently visited Key Holidays and Destina Travel to help them boost their river cruise business
For Key Holidays director Jonathan Cunningham, there is one word that sums up his feelings for the year ahead with the support of the TTG Travel Heroes... excited.
“The impact of the TTG Travel Heroes is going to be fabulous,” he enthuses. “And with their support we’ve never been in a better place to drive sales.”
In January, Cunningham welcomed Jamie Loizou, TTG Travel Hero and AmaWaterways digital director, to Key Holidays’ shop in Romiley.
They were joined by Debbie Barraclough, who oversees the agency’s sales, marketing and business development, and the trio discussed how AmaWaterways can help develop Key Holidays’ river cruise business.
The team has some experience in the market, as in 2019 river cruise bookings accounted for 5% of sales. One employee has been on a river cruise, and Barraclough spent two nights on an AmaWaterways ship at last year’s TTNG conference in Budapest.
In January, Key Holidays held its second river cruise evening, which was organised with another line. It attracted 85 guests and eight reservations have already been made.
“We’re looking to be able to call ourselves river cruise specialists,” Cunningham explains. “It would be fantastic to get ourselves up from not doing much with AmaWaterways to making 10 to 20 bookings by the end of the year.”
Product knowledge will be key, and an AmaWaterways training session is being arranged for Key Holidays’ four-strong team. Loizou has also offered a seven-night fam trip.
Cunningham has several audiences he hopes to target. He is keen to nurture a small but growing singles customer base, possibly by setting up an afternoon tea group. He also hopes to launch into the groups market with Loizou’s support, explaining: “There is a real opportunity for us with groups. It’s not something we’ve done before, but we sponsor a bowling group and a tee at the local golf club. AmaWaterways [is] willing to create flyers, pull-up displays and point-of-sale material, so with our existing local close contacts it could be really exciting.”
The active market will also be important, with Cunningham explaining: “Adventure is a buzzword at the moment, and things like the bikes and Wellness Hosts AmaWaterways offers will appeal to clients.”
Cunningham is keen for his team to learn about AmaWaterways’ ships’ USPs and to have confidence talking about the customer experience. He explains: “Until our meeting in January, I’d not thought about how a river cruise allows a customer to see five to seven fantastic destinations, but only unpack once. They can have a nice breakfast, a lovely guided walk, relax on the sundeck and then sail on to the next city or town. It really is living the dream, in luxury.”
Marketing support from Loizou will be invaluable. “To help introduce AmaWaterways to our clients, they’ll do an e-shot for us with an exclusive value- added deal, going out to our database of 1,200 clients.” Cunningham explains.
“We’re also hoping to send out an overbranded direct mail piece every three months to our main database of 3,000. As an independent agency, we don’t have anyone dedicated to our marketing. To have that unrivalled support from AmaWaterways will have such an impact; I can’t thank them enough.”
This expert recently gave the two agencies super selling power
River cruise hero: Jamie Loizou, Sales, marketing and digital director, AmaWaterways
Years in travel: 17
Superpowers: A Hulk-like strength to support agents in boosting their river cruise business. When people don’t love river cruising, Jamie gets angry... very angry.
After being promoted from assistant manager to head of leisure travel at Destina Travel in October, Sam Tyers had one important job for her first day in her new role.
“I entered the TTG Travel Heroes [initiative],” she explains. “I never expected us to [be chosen], but I think [it will] give us such a boost.”
In January, Loizou visited the team at their Hagley store. “It was a really productive meeting, and I came away with so many ideas,” Tyers says.
River cruise currently represents 5% of Destina’s sales, and Tyers explains: “We tend to make a booking every few months, normally as part of a larger tour or itinerary.”
Formal targets have yet to be set, as in January the agency was bought from the John Good Group by TTNG, having been a Worldchoice member for 10 years. Tyers hopes that Loizou’s support could help her team increase their river cruise bookings to 15% of all sales by the end of 2020. “I’d like us to make 10 AmaWaterways bookings this year,” she adds.
Talking with Loizou highlighted a key area Tyers can focus on to start boosting sales. She explains: “Our biggest downside is that we’re not proactively selling river cruise.”
The team have a staff training session every Wednesday morning, which their local AmaWaterways business development manager will attend in the coming weeks, with a coffee morning for clients held straight afterwards. “We will all be freshly trained and ready to answer any customer questions,” Tyers adds.
Loizou is keen to help the Destina team identify current clients who would enjoy a river cruise, and Tyers says: “We spoke about our city break and touring clients, who may be interested in attending the coffee morning. We will also promote it locally in print and on social media to attract new clients.”
Loizou also recommended groups as a market for river cruising, and the agency already has a captive audience. For the past 25 years, it has run its Mercian Travel tour operation, offering bridge and bowling holidays to Spain for five months a year.
There are 1,500 customers in that particular database, and Tyers explains: “We talked about how we could offer those customers a small- group sailing on a quieter ship, where there would be a room for them to [play] bridge. If there’s a lot of interest we could do two sailings the next year.”
They also discussed how the Destina team can start suggesting a river sailing as an option for customers who enjoy ocean cruises. Tyers continues: “We want to look at switch-selling [traditional ocean cruiers] to river, where they can try a smaller ship.”
Tyers expects an AmaWaterways fam to help boost the team’s confidence, as while she stayed with the line overnight during last year’s TTNG conference, none of the team has been on a river cruise.
Her team has already started using point-of-sale material provided by Loizou, and the line will also supply content to use in email marketing.
For progress updates, visit ttgtravelheroes.com
TTG Travel Hero Jamie Loizou on meeting the two agencies
“My initial visits were incredibly positive and I can see real opportunities for growth in both agencies. Key Holidays currently sells a small amount of river cruise and they definitely have the scope and appetite to expand their product offering. We talked about how they can focus on key rivers, to ensure they have the best chance of converting a sale.
“We also discussed which clients to proactively propose river cruising to.
“Destina Travel sells a good proportion of luxury. They have a lovely office and a knowledgeable team. However at the moment they sell just a very small number of river cruises, and it tends to be on an ask-for basis. There’s a fantastic opportunity here, as we can educate the team on which clients would really relish a river cruise – it’s a great suggestion for those wanting touring, tailor-made, city breaks and cultural holidays.
“I also explained how our double-width ship AmaMagna offers a stepping stone for ultra-luxury ocean cruisers to try river cruising.
“With both teams, I discussed a number of strategies to help increase their confidence when selling, and ways that we can help with their marketing.
“I’m excited for the agents to join us on a fam trip, so they can experience a river cruise with AmaWaterways and use that first-hand knowledge when selling. I’m hoping 2020 will be a fantastic year for both teams.”
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