|Dwain Wall, senior vice president and general manager, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. // All photos by Susan J. Young|
Anyone concerned about the long-term health of the travel agency distribution system need only look to the growth of CruiseOne and Cruises Inc., for a reality check. More than 785 enthusiastic agency owners and agents are attending the two brands’ annual conference at Walt Disney World Resort (www.disneytravelagents.com) and onboard Disney Cruise Line this week.
Dwain Wall, senior vice president and general manager, CruiseOne (www.cruiseonefranchise.com) and Cruises Inc. (www.sellcruises.com) said 47 percent of the two groups’ pools of cruise franchisee owners and new hosted agents joined the network in the past three years.
In 2012, CruiseOne is marking its 20th anniversary and Cruises Inc. is celebrating its 30th year. “It’s a milestone year,” said Wall.
“This is the third consecutive year that we’ve broken the record for bringing in new franchisees and new cruise selling agents,” Wall stressed. “All agree we’ve done a lot in the past year, and, yes, it’s been another incredible year.”
As for the importance of this year’s national conference, “celebrating a conference on both land and sea marks a true evolution in our business,” said Wall. CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. conference attendees are spending four nights at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort and three nights onboard Disney Cruise Line.
“Cruising has been and it will always be core to who we are, to what we do,” stressed Wall. “But as part of our commitment to help each and every one of you to be the best travel professionals that you can be, we’ve taken incredible strides at building a successful land vacation program." He said that included introducing a new land vacation certification program and new supplier relationships with increased land vacation commissions.
"It's a priority to give you as many tools as absolutely possible to help you to drive your sales," he said. In addition, Wall stressed that the headquarters staff continues to create tools that are "the secret sauce for success." He also said the two organizations' had really targeted social media promotion.
"We stepped up our game [at headquarters this year in creating such tools], Wayne said, asking his agents: “Have You?”
|Left to right: Ed Fouche, senior vice president, travel industry sales, Americas, Disney Destinations and Brad Tolkin, co-chairman and co-CEO, World Travel Holdings await the opening of the CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. conference at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort Convention Center.|
Marketing and Promotion
Among those trade tools Wall cited were an advanced data center, new websites with enhanced user experiences, a new World Traveler magazine, a new marketing calendar, a learning center, an agent certification program, revamped curriculum for training, an enhanced agent support team.
In addition, Cruise One and Cruises Inc. provided franchise owners and agents with $350,000 in consumer promotions funded entirely by headquarters. It also created a new group manual, added exclusive group offerings, made enhancements to the Cruise Control program, created a SelectAir partnership, shore excursions partnership and an iProspect partnership.
Wall also cited the success of a field sales force launch in Florida and Texas. Later in the morning at a separate marketing presentation, Luis Zuniga, vice president of marketing and communications, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc., said that after a trial with field sales programs in the two states, sales increased 12 percent in Texas and 9 percent in Florida.
Next on tap for the program is California, said both executives. And although the organization won’t go state-by-state for all, it will roll out additional states as more data is gathered from the California trial.
During the past year, headquarters staff created individualized “Company and Member Cruises” web sites, which generated $1.4 million in revenue. However, Zuniga said only six agencies accounted for 85 percent of that. He urged other agencies to get involved.
Zuniga also said the organization needs additional data to create a dedicated river cruise campaign, but that that river sales are definitely the hot sector for growth in the cruise industry.
Land sales are doing well too, he said, noting that the intent is not to cannibalize cruise sales by pushing land. It's designed to give agents the opportunity for added revenue in addition to their core cruise business and to retain clients who may want a cruise this year but a different type of vacation next.
The two organizations agents increased land sales by 35 percent last year, Zuniga said.
Cruise One and Cruises Inc. funded $350,000 in promotions on behalf of its franchise owners and hosted agents in the past year. It has also participated in a lead generation partnership with Google.
Research shows, said Zuniga, that price is still listed as the most important factor by repeat cruisers who are asked about their decision to buy. It’s not the only factor, he noted, as loyalty to a particular line, is among other factors that are also important.
But Zuniga said it’s interesting for agents to know that repeaters are more act to purchase on price than even new cruisers, which is in contrast to what many agents may think.
E-mail remains an important tool, he said, but that when looking at the organization’s emails, out of more than 1,200 agencies, only 380 had mailing lists with more than 100 subscribers.
“If we’re not reaching out to millions, then we’ve lost the opportunity,” Zuniga stressed, noting that in the coming year, the organization plans to reward those with a large data base and “encourage you to get to certain minimums to participate.”
Zuniga said CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. will introduce Associate Marketing Solutions in the coming year. That will provide access to certain messaging and touch points for associates of franchise agencies.
While the goal is to respect the relationship between the owner and an associate so there is “no blurry line” as to who is in charge, the organization will sensitively target the relationship between the customer and his or her primary contact point, often the associate of an agency.
|Left to right, Rosemarie Reed, Luis Zuniga and Sandi Szalay, from CruiseOne and Cruises Inc.|
What else can you expect from CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. in the coming year? Expect one very visible public promotional tool – a car wrap. The line showed a slide of a cool car wrap for visual punch and the audience "oohed" and "aahed." Zuniga said he was a big fan of such promotions.
The organization is also looking at the potential for Destinations Wedding Solutions, and noted that its current honeymoon product hasn’t worked that well, and will likely "see the sunset soon," said Zuniga.
He said there is an opportunity to grow in the areas of display advertising. A sister World Travel Holdings brand has had success with Google’s smart technology that tracks where the customer goes on Google.
So, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. could have a customer come to either site, then leave, and the organization’s displays ads would follow the customer and be posted on the subsequent sites the consumer visits.
The organization is also planning a “Cart Abandonment E-mail” that will e-mail people who have looked on either site, attempted to get to the point of purchase, but then had to leave for some reason – perhaps a distraction like a phone call or interruption by family – without making a purchase. E-mails will show the original offer the customer was looking at plus several others.
Other plans for the coming year include a new Pay Per Click push on the local level. CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. has had success with Pay Per Click and Google at the national level, and now agents will be given the opportunity for a similar program at the local level.
Zuniga said lead prospecting creates 10 percent of all revenue for home-based agents, and while it’s not the bulk of their business, it’s a good number.
The most dynamic area for marketing and promotion in today’s marketplace, though, is video, according to statistics Zuniga provided. In fact, 69 percent of all people online today consume their content through videos. Next year, that number will rise to 90 percent.
Zuniga said there is “no better medium” for promotion and repeat cruisers are more likely to utilize videos in their search for a cruise vacation. CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. will create three-to-five compelling videos for agents to utilize on their Web sites.
|Christina Monge in marketing for Cruise One and Cruises Inc. and Stefainie Born in information technology for Cruise One and Cruises Inc. Convention hall, resplendent with Disney "ears" awaits convention participants.|
Tips for Success
Wall said many agencies are making the most of the new tools and have increased their revenue, while for others, he said, “It’s 'tough love' time. What’s stopping the rest of you?”
During the morning session, Wall also talked about how to maximize success while achieving the best possible balance in life. When 20 CEOs were asked about how they achieved that, he said the one recurring theme was the importance of starting very early in the morning.
“In our case, the early agent gets the booking,” Wall said. “Mornings are when your mind is the clearest. It makes sense that this one of the best times to think creatively about your upcoming day and about what’s happening in your business.”
In talking about problem solving, Wall said one CEO cited the need to jot down thoughts on paper every single day: “It’s a way to make the goals and aspirations tangible, and a way to keep much more strategic, rather than acting on a reactive basis throughout the day as things come your way.”
“Some people dream of great accomplishments, others wake up and actually do them,” he said, asking the agents, “which one are you?”
Ultimately it’s about balance, he said. Business owners may not be CEOs of Apple or Google but they are a CEO of their own travel business.
To continue to be successful and to grow sales, it takes work, dedication and for agents to use the tools provided by the headquarters group, he said. “All these have been created so you can excel,” Wall said, adding that in the organization’s attempts to grow the business, “we have accomplished all of this while maintaining that strong family spirit.”
But now it’s time for everyone to fulfill their part of the partnership. “We want to encourage all of you to set the bar even higher this week.”
Still, he reminded the group that “let’s remember this is a fun business” and to make their own memories this week while the conference is spending a magical week with Disney.
Look for more coverage of the CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. conference here on www.travelagentcentral.com throughout the week.