We are pleased many of our remaining 2016 cruises are now sold out, and bookings for 2017 are looking encouraging. We are in one of the strongest forward-booking positions that we have been in for quite a few years; this will, in turn, lead to less discounting and fewer “last-minute” offers. We would advise agents to urge their clients to plan ahead and book now, to avoid disappointment. In 2017, many cabin grades on a number of our cruises are already sold out, especially on our more adventurous itineraries, such as Iceland and Greenland.
At Fred Olsen, our focus is on “authenticity”. There is an increasing appetite among our guests for authentic, experiential holidays, and our 2017 cruise programme incorporates lots of opportunities for guests to explore and discover a region – whether meeting local people, eating the regional cuisine or learning about the area’s history and culture. We will also offer more scenic cruising, more overnight stays in ports – giving more time in the destination – and more cruise holidays based around events, such as the Mardi Gras or Rio Carnival.
At the end of 2016, our classic ship Black Watch will be entering dry dock to undergo extensive refurbishment. The rest of the fleet will follow over the next couple of years. These major works and significant investment will enhance the facilities that we are able to offer, and ensure that our fleet remains as attractive and appealing to our guests as ever.
This year we are running 15 free agent training days, and 16 fam trips. We proactively encourage agents to book ship visits to enable them to experience our product first-hand and to give them a better understanding of the “Fred Olsen Difference”. Agents can contact Fred Olsen via 01473 746164, firstname.lastname@example.org or fredolsencruises.com/travel-agent-centre
Figures show that more than half of the UK’s 1.7 million cruise guests are taking two or more cruises per year. So, when selling to cruise to their clients, agents should be imparting their knowledge of new and different itineraries, destinations and experiences to maximise this potential. In addition, we have found that ‘added benefits’ make a real difference, such as a free upgrade to our ‘all-inclusive’ drinks package, a free shore tour or, on our longer cruises, free door-to-door transfers. These ‘extras’ mean that guests can relax on their holiday, safe in the knowledge that almost everything is covered in the cruise price.
We would suggest that, for new-to-cruise customers, agents should explain the benefits of Fred Olsen’s innovative ‘Enjoyment Promise’, which gives new guests the reassurance that, should they find that a cruise is not for them, Fred Olsen will arrange and pay for their flight back to the UK, plus refund the cost of their cruise.
Fred’s Norwegian fjords continues to be a very popular itinerary; we have found that about 80% of our new guests are choosing cruises to this region for their first Fred Olsen experience. Agents should also impress their clients with an understanding of regional ports and how this impacts upon the cruise holiday that they choose. For example, Newcastle is significantly closer geographically to the fjords than Southampton, so by taking a five-night fjords cruise from Newcastle, rather than an eight-night from Southampton, guests looking for a shorter cruise holiday will save up to three days in sailing time and; more importantly, the cost will be 35% cheaper.
Agents should also focus up the ‘solo traveller’ market, which continues to grow, with 40% of over-55s in the UK being single. At Fred Olsen, we offer the largest proportion of single cabins of any cruise line, and we run great-value solos promotions throughout the year.