Around 100 agents came to Liverpool for the second TTG New to Cruise Festival last week. During the day-long conference, delegates heard how to boost their sales across the sector with plenty of top tips to take back to their businesses.
Enticing clients with destinations when selling river cruise is “even more important” than when booking an ocean cruise holiday.
That was the message from a trio of river line sales reps, who urged delegates to extol the value and the inclusions of a river break compared with a land-based trip.
Simon McDermott, business development manager, north at A-Rosa River Cruises, advised agents looking to sell river for the first time to target “culture vultures who love their city breaks”.
“You’re right in the heart of the destination and basically doing three or four city breaks in a week,” he said.
His point was echoed by Nicky Yates, Scenic and Emerald Waterways’ sales manager, central north, who recommended agents market towards fans of escorted touring.
“I really don’t think agents are putting enough river offers out there in the marketplace,” she said.
When discussing how to tackle Simon McDermott, Nicky Yates and Jon Schofield perceptions around price, with the panel agreeing river fares may initially seem higher than ocean, Crystal’s regional sales manager for the north and Scotland Jon Schofield recalled his own holiday with the line to celebrate his wife’s birthday.
“We took a lot of euros but didn’t end up using many, there’s just so much included,” he said.
McDermott advised “putting the value in front of your customer” by pricing up a similar land-based trip with flights and hotel stays for comparison.
Sales guru and ex-Trailfinders cruise expert Simon Cox gave delegates his top selling tips
1 – Overcome your own prejudices about selling cruise. If you think it’s just for “newlyweds and nearly-deads”, you are 20 years out of date.
2 – Don’t be nervous if you feel inexperienced, or clients will lose confidence in you. Simply ask lots of open-ended questions and, if you need to, tell them you will get back to them with the information.
3 – Cruise customers are incredibly loyal – either to a specific cruise brand or to you. If they have a good experience they’ll come back time and time again. However, there are those who are most loyal to “themselves” – always looking for the best price and they’ll switch over [to save] a few pounds.
4 – Spending some time to understand deck plans, which way beds face and which cabins are underneath the swimming pool, for example, will make you sound like a real expert.
5 – It’s also key to understand visa and vaccination requirements for every country being visited, as well as cruise lines’ restrictions for pregnant women and babies, and young children. Making mistakes on any of these can be costly!
Fred Olsen’s Black Watch played host to around 50 new-to-cruise agents in Liverpool on the second day of the New to Cruise Festival. Guests enjoyed a ship tour, brand presentation and lunch onboard the vessel.
To watch all the action from the day, check out TTG’s video at ttgmedia.com/videos
Agents should “look beyond the big white ships tag” when finding potential ocean cruise customers by introducing them to the variety of brands and experiences on offer.
Leon Hand, Celebrity Cruises’ UK and Ireland trainer, said those who believe premium cruising is “posh or stuffy” should think again.
Norwegian Cruise Line business development manager Kirsty Webb emphasised the breadth of activities available for agents to promote to clients.
She also tackled safety misconceptions, highlighting safety nets around family cabin balconies.
Meanwhile, Fred Olsen’s sales services and communications manager Kate Wooldridge dispelled myths about small-ship cruising, having received “brilliant feedback” from agents on a recent fam trip.
Agents should not be daunted by organising cruises for groups.
Riviera Travel’s national sales manager Thomas Morgan said the operator gave agents an opportunity to give back an allocation if a proposed group did not come together as planned, and the company could provide marketing materials to help agents sell the trip.
Anna Reed of Ocky White Travel advised agents to see which clients in their existing database might gel well on a group trip. “My group enjoyed it so much that price doesn’t come into it so much now. Sell them the value before you talk price.
Cruise lines must not be afraid to set “big audacious goals” when it comes to operating more sustainably.
That was the call from Virgin Voyages and Hurtigruten, discussing at TTG’s New to Cruise Festival how agents can educate clients on what the sector is doing to offer cleaner, greener holidays.
Anthony Daniels, Hurtigruten’s UK general manager, said before he joined the company in 2015, its bosses had spoken of their desire to “power ships using waterfalls”. “Now that’s a reality, with Roald Amundsen [its hybrid battery powered ship launched in June, pictured above] the electricity we’re fuelling the ship with in-port comes from hydroelectric waterfalls.”
Daniels said he believed the cruise sector was taking the climate crisis “incredibly seriously”, with Hurtigruten ditching single-use plastics last July.
“We want to be world leaders in expedition cruising so it’s vital that when we visit these places we’re not leaving a bad footprint.”
Gemma Smith, sales manager for Virgin Voyages – which will launch its first ship, Scarlet Lady, in April – said it had also “banned” single-use plastics.
Smith discussed how Virgin Voyages was working with Swedish-based geothermal energy specialist Climeon in a bid to create a cleaner fuel than currently being used by the industry.
Scarlet Lady’s hull, she added, has also been designed to create “as little resistance as possible” as it sails.
Smith and Daniels also discussed how their lines work with communities in the destinations they visit, with one Hurtigruten guest even having volunteered to help crew clean a beach. “Guests are now seeing what we’re doing and then asking ‘what’s next?’,” said Daniels.
Smith teased how Virgin Voyages’ Shore Things excursions programme would offer a chance to “tap into local communities and benefit them” with small-group experiences.
The line’s Richard’s Birthday Bash sailing, celebrating Virgin Group’s founder Richard Branson’s birthday in July, will also focus on “wellbeing and sustainability”, Smith added.