Virgin Voyages is aiming for 50% “if not more” of guests to be sourced from the UK when its second ship, Valiant Lady, homeports out of Barcelona, according to the line’s UK sales chief.
The adults-only line showcased its maiden vessel Scarlet Lady in Dover this weekend with around 500 UK travel agents arriving on Saturday (22 February) to attend an overnight celebration.
About 1,700 agents will have experienced the ship, which makes its inaugural voyage on 1 April from Miami, on its UK tour which also visits in Liverpool and features additional day ship visits.
Speaking to TTG onboard, Shane Riley associate vice-president UK and Australia, said currently, dependent on itinerary, the UK market was exceeding its target of 10-15% of overall passengers.
“We expect the UK to increase even more so now Valiant Lady is on sale and coming to the Mediterranean,” he said. “There will definitely be an increase – I would say 40-50% if not more from the UK on those sailings.
“It’s difficult because there are always factors to consider from different markets but the fact that she’s sailing on a Sunday from Barcelona and docking at the bottom of La Rambla to become the best floating hotel in Barcelona and she has amazing itineraries with an overnight in Ibiza on the Friday on every itinerary [is] really appealing to the UK market.”
During a press conference on Friday (21 February) Virgin Voyages president and chief executive, Tom McAlpin, said Valiant Lady’s three ex-Barcelona itineraries would offer “a flavour of Spain” and two other sailings – “one a bit more Italian and the other a bit more French-focused”.
“We’re really excited about it – the UK is very big for us and the Med is a big market for the US as well,” he added.
Meanwhile Riley said the creation of Virgin Voyage Store, a partnership with Aviate, to allow agents to sell packages, demonstrated its “big commitment” to the trade.
By booking through Voyage Store, agents will earn 10% commission, while they will also be eligible for an additional 3% bonus commission on all 2020 sailings.
Voyage Store will also be paying £50 per booking for any new bookings made before 3 May 2020. Agents will also receive £25 back on each new booking made throughout 2020.
“If the First Mate [Virgin Voyages’ term for travel agents] doesn’t have an Atol they can book through Voyage Store and those packages were only bookable through the trade,” Riley added.