Consumers may continue to have concerns about their budgets but they recognize and take advantage of outstanding value, according to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). A survey of agents and agencies participating in World’s Largest Cruise Night (WLCN) events on October 14 and/or online, or virtual, promotions throughout October indicates more than $45 million in actual and anticipated cruise vacation sales related to WLCN, resulting in almost $6 million in travel agent commissions.
“World’s Largest Cruise Night is an important reminder that with strong marketing to ensure consumer awareness, the public is prepared to spend on vacations even when they may be anxious about the economy and particularly when the perceived value of those vacations is so strong,” said Terry Dale, CLIA’s president and CEO. “Travel agents across the U.S. and Canada used WLCN to make sure their customers knew about special cruise offers and those customers responded.”
CLIA agents reported that nearly 50,000 consumers attended physical WLCN cruise events held by a record 1,309 agencies this year. The events were diverse and held in travel agency offices, hotel ballrooms, restaurants, luxury car dealerships and other venues.
The CLIA travel agent survey reveals that agencies offering such WLCN events have already generated, or anticipate generating, a total of 18,351 bookings for an estimated $21 million in sales potentially yielding more than $2.7 million in travel agency commissions. Over 95 percent of agents who planned to participate did so, a similar participation level as 2008.
CLIA introduced the Virtual WLCN option in 2007, expanding it into a month-long opportunity for agents this year. Nearly 2,800 agencies participated in 2009, sending email invitations to consumers inviting them to visit their customized WLCN website with cruise line videos, agency contact information and special offers. It is estimated that consumers viewed 50,481 WLCN cruise line videos.
Agents surveyed project $24 million in actual and future sales as a result of the leads and contacts generated through four weeks of Virtual WLCN participation. According to participating CLIA travel agencies, combined, CLIA’s 2009 online and traditional WLCN events are projected to generate up to 44,000 bookings and $45.6 million in sales, resulting in a potential $5.9 million in travel agency commissions.
“Participation by travel agents in physical and virtual WLCN events and promotions this year was outstanding," said Bob Sharak, executive vice president of CLIA. "Every segment of the cruise industry was promoted, from specialty cruises to contemporary lines to ultra-luxury vacations, and agents consistently reported that their efforts paid off in increased sales."
"We are completely thrilled with the results from this year's WLCN," said Michelle Fee, CEO of Cruise Planners. "We saw an astonishing 44 percent increase in cabin sales, with a 65 percent increase in overall revenue from October 2008 to 2009. The event really generated a momentum for Cruise Planners that we expect will take us right into 2010."
Agreeing with Fee, Craig Rashid, a Cruise Planners franchise owner and CLIA Elite Cruise Counsellor, reported almost $40,000 in sales as a result of promoting WLCN at his travel booth in a local mall and by email and phone. “If others didn’t promote this event they missed out big time,” he said.
Liberty Travel was one major company that did not miss out; Makis Xenatos, vice president told CLIA, “We ended up with 846 cabins and revenue of $2.4 million, which is great for one day.”
Mark Knass, owner of World View Travel in Southern California teamed up with Seabourn Cruise Line, Francis Ford Coppola Estate Winery, Mercedes-Benz of Laguna Niguel and other partners to host “An Evening of Yachts, Wine and Mercedes-Benz” at the automobile dealer showroom that drew close to 400 VIP guests. At press time, Knass was still totaling up his sales; meanwhile, Seabourn has reported 140 new bookings because of WLCN.
Other CLIA lines reporting success included Holland America Line, which conducted fleet wide shipboard WLCN events between October 12 and October 18. There were receptions and presentations and the events were promoted in ships’ daily newspapers and through in-cabin and food and beverage presentations. Mike Conroy, CTC, Holland America’s manager for onboard sales, reported that travel agent commissionable revenue from the events was 200 percent higher during WLCN week than the week before.
Avalon Waterways, in its first year of participation in WLCN, witnessed a 170 percent increase in sales (year over year) on October 14 alone. Avalon's sales were up 130 percent for the week. And, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises secured 154 bookings for the 2010 season related to WLCN.
In 2008, travel agents report that WLCN drew consumers to 1,101 travel agency events that generated an estimated 43,020 bookings, $41.4 million in cruise sales and a potential $5.4 million in travel agency commissions. In its first year in 2005, CLIA’s WLCN promotion attracted 25,000 consumers to 400-plus agency events, generating an estimated 7,273 bookings, $9 million in cruise sales and $1.2 million in travel agency commissions.