Cruise Planners posted a 20 percent growth in total sales in 2018, based on departures over the past year. River sales are up 55 percent, luxury sales have increased 19 percent and land sales are up 21 percent.
More than 600 travel advisors attending the 2018 Cruise Planners Convention in Hollywood, FL, this week learned about those statistics and what's ahead for the coming year.
Michelle Fee, founder and CEO; Vicky Garcia, co-owner and COO; Brian Shultz, chief information officer; Theresa Scalzitti, vice president of sales and marketing; Scott Koepf, vice president of strategic development; and other CP Home Office executives and employees, talked with the agents throughout the week about new tools, enhanced services and new programs.
New Tools and Updates
Here's a sampling of what's new that CP is introducing this year and early next.
Automation of Hot Lists: CP provides franchise owners with Hot Lists, which show potential sales opportunities based on major client milestones (birthdays or anniversaries); clients who haven’t made a booking in the past 12 months; and new clients who have an open future cruise deposit.
What’s new? Currently the agents then go in and opt to send an e-card to clients to tweak their interest in a vacation. Some 8,000 e-cards have been sent thus far by agents -- resulting in $2.4 million in sales.
But starting in mid-December, that function will be automated by the CP Home Office to take the burden off busy agents.
Agents can still do it themselves, but if they don’t choose to send an e-card, after 30 days the automation will handle it. “We’re taking all the work off your hands,” emphasized Garcia.
Showing the importance of that, right now CP clients have $22.5 million in open cruise deposits – without a current booking. That’s a huge opportunity for agents whose clients have already put down a deposit.
Currently, agents can see those onboard future cruise credits in their CP system for certain lines – Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line.
Now, thanks to new enhancements, they’ll also see Viking Ocean Cruises, Viking River Cruises, Princess Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises as well.
Left to right above are these CP executives: Michelle Fee, Scott Koepf, Vicky Garcia, Brian Shultz, Theresa Scalzitti and Tom Kruszewski.
Relaunch of CP Marketing Hub: Starting in mid-December, agents will benefit from the relaunch of the CP Marketing Hub tool with many more marketing features and tools.
Agents will be able to track client marketing and easily see what has gone out to their clients either from the agency directly or from the CP Home Office.
The tool even will track a client booking back to a specific marketing initiative – giving agents the ability to track what type of marketing works best for their business.
Another new feature, Set Goals, will allow agents to choose to set their own marketing goals, such as revenue growth, e-mail opt-ins, insurance purchases and more.
Agents also can set mini-goals as steps to help them achieve their overall goals.
Enhancing Lead Generation: Cruise Planners will be refreshing its corporate website with enhanced smart forms and data capture.
That should help drive more leads to agents, who will receive an e-mail notification with that new, potential client’s information added automatically to the individual agent’s database.
New Consumer Websites for Agencies: Agents cheered as executives announced several highly awaited new features, including the first quarter 2019 launch of new consumer websites for agencies.
What’s nifty? CP is designing three different types of sites – contemporary (covering the range of vacation products), luxury and land. Agents can pick one to use or have two or three, depending on what they sell.
So if the agency sells a lot of luxury, it might choose that site, but it could also opt for a second contemporary site for the agency's broad range of products and services.
Agents reap all the benefits of the new sites, said Garcia: “We don’t sell travel at home office…We drive potential customers directly back to you.”
More Video Content: CP Video Network offers agents 20 different videos that focus on popular destinations, travel styles (solo, luxury, family, adults-only and so on.)
Just launched, Cruise Planners is now adding short videos of 15 or 30 seconds focused on some major supplier promotions; combinations of these can be leveraged on the agent’s social media platform and in e-mail marketing.
Also, personalized videos on a continuous loop will be available for agents to use at travel shows or consumer events.
New Direct Mail Themes: Data-driven client insight programs – such as Travel Styles, CP Insights, client’s past purchase behavior and Hot Lists for milestone dates – allow CP Home Office and individual agents to target the right customer for the right product at the right time.
Now, CP is introducing new direct mail themes for 2019, sending direct mail to these targeted potential clients – culinary enthusiasts, Millennials, adventure travelers and solo travelers.
Millennial Marketing Campaign: Cruise Planners has analyzed its data and learned that more than 400,000 Millennials are already in that database.
Agents are already booking these younger customers, plus they’re traveling more and they trust travel agents.
So next year, Cruise Planners plans to launch its first Millennial marketing campaign. Stay tuned for more details as this evolves.
New Flight Tools: Via its partnership with GMT, an air consolidator, agents can offer full services, including air purchases, to clients. More than 70 percent of agents have completed virtual training on using the GMT services.
Now, a new Find a Flight tool will more easily allow agents to compare rates for all classes of service. Agents can also mark up rates when there is a substantial price advantage.
Another new tool is Flight Look-Up tool. Launching soon, it will allow agents to look up and log flight details for clients who may have purchased their own flights.
They can put in the airline flight number and departure time and add it into the client’s own cruise or land travel reservation, so they can see it in CP Maxx. This way agents will know what the full trip details are, even air if they did not book it.
In addition, both clients and agents will soon receive real-time flight alerts for departure or arrival delays, gate changes and cancellations, so the agent can be proactive in contacting the client. It shows the travel agent is on top of things.
New Alexa Show: Two years ago CP introduced Alexa for clients and agents. Now, CP will add Alexa Show, the visual version of the voice-activated technology. So agents can ask “What is my expected commission?” That will then show up visually.
Group Price Advantage: One of the top new tools debuting in mid-December is Group Price Advantage. It will alert agents during the cruise search to identify a sailing for which CP has home office group pricing.
So the agents can compare current published rates for specific categories against those home office group rates. Also, the new feature will allow agents to perform a search to only see sailings where there is a group price advantage.
Previously, agents could do the comparison, but now it’s much simpler. So agents whose clients have bookings and get an alert that the Group Price Advantage is thus and so, can get their clients a better price at no added charge, plus the client receives the group amenity.
New Vacation Wizard: It can be confusing for agents with more than 200 travel suppliers in a database. That’s particularly true for new-to-CP agents.
But even for veteran agents, CP’s previous Selling and Booking Chart was a huge spreadsheet type tool with all of the suppliers, and it was time consuming to find the right one.
So a new interactive supplier partner database, Vacation Wizard, within CP Partner Resources, will launch in the first quarter 2019.
Michelle Fee, founder and CEO, Cruise Planners, speaks on stage at the group's 2018 annual convention at the Diplomat Beach Hotel, Hollywood, FL.
Agents in the audience clapped loudly and cheered, as they’ll be able to easily find the right supplier based on certain criteria, such as the client’s travel style, travel category, land, cruise or specific destinations.
The tool also allows for quick comparison of commission levels and gives agents a look at other supplier information such as destinations served.
New CP Mobile App for Clients: A new CP Mobile App for Cruise Planners’ customers will allow clients to manage their trips while traveling and search for -- and even book -- future travel. It will go "live" in first quarter 2019.
Clients will be able to make payments, have credit cards authorized, purchase travel insurance and more. The app will have integration with Yelp so clients can access destination information.
New CP Maxx Mobile App for Agents: CP agents are also now using the new CP Maxx Mobile App that just launched. It allows agents to conveniently manage their agency's business from the palm of their hand.
With this new mobile app, even while out of the office or traveling, they easily can see client information, reservations, CP Marketing Hub, a calendar and partner resources.
New Training Opportunities: Cruise Planners plans to launch multiple specialist programs in 2019, including luxury, travel insurance, escorted tours, groups and river cruise.
In addition, there will be new weekly Sales Skills with Scott mini-training sessions. These two- to five-minute videos featuring Scott Koepf, vice president of strategic development, will offer fun and entertaining tips and sales advice.
Boot Camps & Events: Exclusively for CP agents who desire to take intensive, skill-focused training, CP will offer four training Boot Camps in early 2019; registration will open in mid-December.
They're set for February 3-5 in Orlando; February 26-28 in Atlantic City; March 17-19 in Las Vegas; and March 29 to April 2 in Dallas.
Cruise Planners also will host a Luxury Forum in August and Land Symposium in September, with specific dates and locations to be announced, although they’ll be at all-inclusive resorts.
American Express Gold Card Addition: Cruise Planners is an American Express Travel Representative and Fee said the partnership has brought great benefits to agents and clients and given CP a “competitive edge.”
One of the partnership perks is that American Express Platinum and Centurion Card members who pay for their CP booked vacation using those cards receive an onboard credit or other amenity/credit on select vacations.
At the convention, it was announced that the American Express Gold Card has been added to the program for 2019.
“Think of the reach,” said Fee, adding that there are twice as many Gold card members as Platinum card members, and travel is the top “spend” for Gold card members.
Also in 2018, Cruise Planners has launched or enhanced many tools and programs including CP Genie, Cruisitude Academy with 478 active courses and 11,000 hours of training, other CP Maxx enhancements, enhanced email deliverability, destination guides and Web content for small cruise lines, and more.