Agents have praised Virgin Voyages for “helping the smaller guys” in its approach to developing relationships with the trade.
The line invited trade partners, who it calls First Mates, to Fincantieri’s Genoa Sestri Ponente shipyard this weekend for the first tour of its upcoming ship Scarlet Lady.
Stacy Shaw, vice-president of sales and business development and Shane Riley, director of international sales, organised for the group of agents - including around 15 from the UK - to be the first visitors to step onboard.
The ship, set to launch in 2020 and homeport in Miami, had previously only been inspected by those involved in the build project or the line’s staff.
GoCruise agent Ian Warren described the decision as “an amazing gesture”.
Warren said he had never visited a ship so early on in its construction and thanked Virgin Voyages for inviting “different kinds of agents”, with many on the trip sharing similar experiences.
“I’ve always wanted to come on a trip like this but there tends to be a habit of lines inviting the same faces at more senior levels… I don’t think I would’ve necessarily been invited, so to be able to come has been brilliant.
“Virgin Voyages has talked about working with agents a lot and events like this really show us they are helping the smaller guys.”
Warren revealed he had made his first booking with the line during its sale for pre-registered consumers while he was travelling to Genoa.
Although he was not able to take the booking himself, leading to his US-based customer going directly to Virgin Voyages, the commission for the sale was passed on.
“It really shows how flexible they are – it’s a proper collaboration,” he said.
James Pettitt, director of Curated Escapes, agreed: “They are really proving their commitment to the trade and it’s not just about throwing money at things but it’s the time and energy of the team to organise events like this and help us experience what they are all about.”
Riley said Virgin Voyages was enjoying working with larger cruise specialists and was also “really identifying” with independents, less established businesses and new-to-cruise agents who he said embodied “Virgin’s entrepreneurial spirit”.
“We are working hard with everyone we know who loves us, especially cruise specialists, who we love, respect and want to work with but there’s also opportunity for businesses who are differentiated and looking to grow by attracting a different kind of audience,” he said.
Riley added that Virgin Voyages wanted to invite “a wide variety” of agents to its trade events in the lead up to the launch of Scarlet Lady.
The line is hosting an evening event in London tomorrow (Monday), as well as a trip to New York, featuring a panel discussion with Richard Branson and party with DJ Mark Ronson, later this week to coincide with going on general sale on Thursday (February 14).
Riley said around 100 UK agents had so far been invited to Virgin Voyages events - including the name reveal for Scarlet Lady in Genoa last July and a culinary reveal in New York last November.