Travel agents can drum up business by touting new ships even before they are in service. The more buzz created, the better the sales. We asked some cruise line sales executives for their advice on how this can be accomplished.
Lisa Bauer, senior vice president of sales for Royal Caribbean, has had her hands full with all of the new Royal Caribbean ships coming online. Freedom of the Seas took its first voyage just last June, while sister ships Liberty of the Seas and Independence of the Seas will launch in May 2007 and May 2008 respectively. And don't forget RCL's Genesis-class vessels, which will sleep more than 5,000 passengers, slated for delivery in 2009 and 2010.
Bauer leans on agents to spread the word. "The biggest thing travel agents can do is piggyback off suppliers," she says. "This means putting notices up on your web sites saying stuff like, 'Be the first to sail on the ship.'" Agents can also house Royal Caribbean's sitelets on their web sites, such as Freedom of the Seas', which is an interactive site offering full-motion video and 3D ship renderings. There will be similar sites for Liberty and Independence. "We made it so the agent community had access to it," Bauer says.
Agents can also use past passenger lists to generate future business. Bauer says agents can look at Royal Caribbean's Crown & Anchor lists (Crown & Anchor is RCL's loyalty program) to work up bookings by pitching new products to past cruisers: "'You already love Royal Caribbean; let's talk about the line's newest ship.'
"When we were launching Freedom," Bauer shares, "Michelle Fee (owner of Cruise Planners in Florida) told me her daughter saw the commercial for the FlowRider surf simulator and said, 'I need to go on that.' It's all about creating excitement about cruising and creating that buzz even goes a long way to helping sell other ships, not just the newest one."
Costa Concordia's sister ship, Costa Serena, is poised to set sail this May. Henny Rojas, Costa's director of field sales, has had plenty of practice spreading the word about Costa's new ships—the line has introduced six new ones over the past seven years. "We've created the buzz," he says. "We're pretty good at it." Rojas takes it upon himself to stir the pot by putting out brochures far in advance of the ship's delivery and playing up the sister ship angle. "Aside from brochures, we have a library of webinars and product presentations," he says. "We train agents on what each new build is about. Each ship having a sister ship makes it easier for agents to understand and therefore sell. New builds stimulate demand and create buzz and excitement."
Vicky Freed, Carnival Cruise Lines' senior vice president of sales and marketing, just launched Carnival Freedom in March and now has her sights set on the July 2008 launch of Carnival Splendor.
"The minute a travel agent sees that a line can take bookings, even before, he or she should reach out to existing loyal clients," Freed says. "Give them a heads-up on the new ship and tell them about all the new features."
Freed stresses that it's always important to follow up with something personal, such as a handwritten letter—not an e-mail. "Create a mystique about the ship," she says, "and do so by making a personal connection with a client—one on one."
Always the consummate saleswoman, Freed adds one more thing: "It also doesn't hurt to inquire of the clients if they might have any friends who'd be interested in traveling as well." – DE