The New Year is kicking into high gear, and for travel agents looking to build their cruise business in 2016, we've rounded up our top tips to keep in mind from our cruise editor, Susan J. Young.
Attracting new customers is a perennial challenge for travel agents, particularly when it comes to selling cruises.
How are agents going about it? Affinity groups are a good bet, and these groups are in the spotlight with the launch of a new Affinity Groups Program by Norwegian Cruise Line. Millennials are another untapped market for cruise travel, with Royal Caribbean International's recently launched "Come Seek" campaign seeking to draw in those travelers.
For a closer look at affinity groups and group cruise sales, we spoke with top agents from around the cruise industry.
Michelle Fee, CEO and co-founder, Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative, Coral Springs, FL, told us that agents should be proactive in finding unique itineraries and reaching out to potential groups. Rosemarie Reed, vice president of marketing, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc, recommends tapping into social media.
New ships are a great source of buzz and a great way to lure clients, and Adam Goldstein, chairman of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and president, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., told us back in April that lines are reporting new ship orders through 2020.
The vessels, which run the gamut from river vessels to mega-ships, represent over $25 billion in investment.
River cruising continues to be a booming niche, and the demand is not just limited to Europe.
U.S. history and culture themed sailings on the Mississippi, Columbia and Snake Rivers are among the popular offerings from cruise lines like American Cruise Lines and American Queen Steamboat Company. Un-Cruise Adventures is also planning to bring wine cruises, always a popular option in Europe, to the Pacific Northwest this year.
Of course, Europe river cruises remain a strong source of sales. In particular, Portugal's Douro and France's Rhone and Saone rivers are proving a daw for more experienced clients that may be getting a "been there, done that" feeling.
On the Douro, AmaWaterways' AmaVida offers options for wine lovers and history buffs. The Rhone and Saone are a good fit for travelers looking to take in French art, food and wine.
With heritage travel on the rise, agents may wish to attract clients who are looking to connect with their personal history with a heritage cruise to Ireland.
St. Patrick's Day is always a popular draw for this destination, but destinations throughout the country offer ways to entice clients year round.
Cruise lines are also set to offer new itineraries in Alaska in 2016, and many ports are adding to their facilities.
Royal Caribbean International is operating seven-night itineraries from Seattle, Vancouver and Seward, while Princess Cruises is positioning six ships in Alaska this year. Un-Cruise Adventures, Disney Cruise Line and Holland America Line are also offering itineraries.
Finally, we have a look at the luxury cruise market, which has boomed over the past decade, according to a CLIA analysis.
New ships like Viking Star -- the first entry from Viking Ocean Cruises -- and two new vessels from Seabourn (the first of which will debut this year) are among the notable new developments in luxury cruises.
Keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for the latest cruise industry news, trends and updates.