The chief executive and founder of Tour America and Cruise Holidays offers her take on how agents can reach new markets in the expanding cruise sector.
Having been invited onboard two new cruise ships last month, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Encore and MSC Cruises’ Grandiosa, I am more convinced than ever cruise is going to continue rapidly reaching new markets – and agents are perfectly placed to tap into this.
These ships are fulfilling everyone’s needs and we are seeing huge interest from new-to-cruise customers. So what’s the attraction now to those customers who previously held the perception that cruises were for old people or indeed, simply “glorified ferries”?
There has been a huge increase in the number of ships available, while cabin availability has totally opened up. The traditional cruise ship has changed to facilitate all people with their diverse interests. Families can take advantage of waterparks, kids’ clubs, zip-lining, racing cars and football pitches.
And adults can enjoy fine dining, spa treatments, wellness and art classes, and space to either be on their own or spend quality time with their family and friends.
More diverse itineraries are also available, with ships stopping at lesser- known ports in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, and exploring the Pacific Coast – an unrivalled way of doing this.
Creative promotions from the cruise lines are working too, and cruise packages are becoming much more inclusive, making the whole experience easier for the passenger.
For one price, they can now get flights, drinks, gratuities, speciality dining and additional onboard spend included, so spending money is never a concern. Some cruise lines are also including shore excursions in their pricing.
The introduction of mini sailing has also helped to boost cruise’s popularity, especially among the all-important new-to-cruise sector, giving them the opportunity to experience the product for a couple of days at very affordable prices. More often than not, they return to book a cruise as their main holiday for the year.
Cruise lines have invested heavily in the launch of their new ships too, and marketing the events throughout social media has had a huge impact on growth.
This, as well as lines inviting the travel trade onboard new ships, has educated everyone better on new products and innovation.
At Tour America and Cruise Holidays, we have found cruising often even exceeds clients’ expectations, resulting in a perfect 10 net promoter score.
We are getting a higher number of repeat customers as well, and they’re wanting to try different ships, with the standard of ships increasing all the time.
But consumer confidence in cruise is the key here. All the promotions and inclusions in the world can completely bypass a consumer if they’re not targeted correctly.
We have done a huge amount of training around discovery and finding the right ship for the right customer. Prioritise this and you’ll see a swell of sales, I’m sure.