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Luxury Panel Tracks Cruise Trends

April 10, 2006 By: Susan Young Travel Agent

"When you're dealing with the luxury customer, you can't Google trust, insight, flexibility and all those intrinsic things," Matthew Upchurch, president and CEO, Virtuoso, told agents as he moderated a luxury cruise panel at the cruise3sixty conference in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday. Mark Conroy, president and CEO, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, said luxury cruise customers want the kind of lifestyle they have at home; they want fine dining, love balconies and marble bathrooms, demand personal service, and they want special things that agents can create for them. They also want to be recognized. Debbie Natansohn, president of Seabourn Cruise Line, said the top tier of the affluent market is getting richer and that top 10 percent of the luxury market represents 60 percent of all travel purchases. If agents don't focus on luxury, she said, "You are missing out on tremendous earnings and an annuity for future travel as these customers travel multiple times a year." But to sell to this market, you can just hang out a shingle, stressed Bill Smith, senior vice president of sales and marketing, Crystal Cruises; he said strong product knowledge and knowledge of a luxury lifestyle were critical. Upchurch added that agents have 30 seconds to no more than two minutes to convince the luxury client of their credentials. David Morris, senior vice president of sNorth American ales, Silversea Cruises, said agents must emulate what is out there in the luxury market and put in a lot of face-to-face contact. Carol Marlow, president and managing director of Cunard Line, said her luxury customers want fine dining, luxury surroundings, impeccable service and a truly unique lifetime experience. "People want the things they don't have to ask for," she said. Diane Moore, vice president of marketing and sales, Windstar Cruises, urged agents to understand that luxury cruise brands vary widely, and that it would be a mistake to just put the same Crystal Cruises client on a Windstar ship or vice versa.

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