|From left to right: Gary Blake, David Giersdorf and Tom Russell.// (c) 2011 Global Voyages Group|
Global Voyages Group (GVG), a new Bellevue, WA, company that creates customized travel industry solutions encompassing sales, marketing, call center, reservations and technology services, has five new clients.
They are Hurtigruten, Scenic Tours, Scenic Cruises, Compagnie du Ponant and Sea Voyager Expeditions.
“Global Voyages Group provides cruise companies, tour operators and other travel suppliers with expanded access to the lucrative and growing North America market in an efficient and effective way by leveraging technology and experience like never before,” said David A. Giersdorf, GVG's president and CEO. “And travel agents who are knowledgeable and focused on this category will have greater access and support in selling these very attractive experiences," he said.
Simply put, GVG plans to seek out niche cruise lines, tour companies and even certain overseas destinations that need help in reaching North American travel agents and consumers. It will help these types of companies increase their revenues, expand distribution, reduce marketing costs and improve financial performance for cruise and tour operations.
GVG already has identified at least 55 organizations that could benefit. Among the services provided by GVG are sales and channel management, integrated marketing solutions, and call center, reservations and business processing. In addition, the company can advise clients about product development, pricing and revenue management.
One new client, Sea Voyager Expeditions, operates the 60-guest expedition cruise vessel, Sea Voyager. That firm’s CEO Denise Landau said of GVG: "Their ability to provide instant benefits of scale and excellence in marketing, sales and reservations services is invaluable to a specialty cruise operator like ourselves focused on developing the North America consumer and travel agent market for our unique offerings.”
Founded in 2010, GVG currently has a staff of 21. Fifteen of those, including two inside sales employees and five staffers in reservations, are based in Bellevue. Six sales employees are based in field locations across North America, and four more field sales employees will be added by November.
Giersdorf also said his firm will offer customized technology solutions based on its “Interactive Enterprise Marketing Management Platform.” He described the technology as a “very powerful marketing automation system” that will allow GVG to automate and appropriately target each client’s unique travel agent, past passenger or prospective client data bases.
The firm will help each client improve the performance and economy of communicating with those databases through technology including e-mail marketing. “It allows us to manage multiple lists and different campaigns,” he said.
Because of GVG’s integrated, flexible approach, Giersdorf stressed that the company is far more than a so-called “rep” company. Customization is key. GVG might provide clients with just sales support, or alternatively, both marketing and a technology solution. Or, it might provide a robust combination of marketing, sales, call center and reservations services, along with technology solutions.
Bottom line? Services will vary sizably by client. For Scenic Cruises and Scenic Tours, based in Australia, GVG will handle all U.S. marketing, sales and reservations. The niche cruise line offers European river cruises; the tour company operates all-inclusive escorted tours in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere.
Glen Moroney, Scenic Cruises and Scenic Tours’ founder and managing director, said that GVG’s expertise will allow his groups to “accelerate the marketing and distribution of our products,” as well as to support travel agents with training and sales tools, cooperative marketing and U.S. based reservations services.
For Compagnie du Ponant, which offers luxurious voyages worldwide on five yachts, GVG is tasked with expanding the firm’s U.S. and Canadian marketing and sales efforts and providing call center support. “GVG's state-of-the-art technology, databases and e-marketing savvy allows us to expand and amplify our presence in North America," said Terri Haas, Compagnie du Ponant’s chief commercial officer.
Giersdorf stressed that the challenges for companies like those in its portfolio are that while there is tremendous opportunity for North American sales, the market itself is enormous and complex. “Therefore, there is a need for a better and different approach,” he said. Giersdorf believes GVG can do what these smaller companies simply can’t on their own without a significant investment of time and resources.
The GVG approach definitely isn't cookie cutter, he said: "Each company has different objectives they strategically wish to achieve in this market.”
For example, Hurtigruten, a well-established line with a fleet of 12 ships, has its own significant reservations operation managed on a global basis, so Giersdorf stressed that GVG will not be handling that line's reservations. But GVG will implement Hurtigruten’s North American marketing and communications plan and administer sales development programs in the western United States and Canada.
What about affiliations with existing marketing groups like Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and Specialty Cruise Collection (formerly NCMA)? Those groups also focus on marketing and travel agency support.
Giersdorf says his group encourages a multi-faceted approach that, for example, supports Hurtigruten’s existing memberships in both CLIA and the Specialty Cruise Collection (formerly Niche Cruise Marketing Alliance) his firm doesn’t see itself as competition for those groups, but notes that both industry groups excel in travel agent training seminars.
In addition to Giersdorf, Global Voyage Group taps into the expertise of other industry veterans. Tom Russell, a GVG managing partner, was a senior executive at Windstar Cruises and has more than 25 years cruise industry experience. Gary Blake, another GVG managing partner, brings more than 25 years experience in advertising, consumer behavior and customer relationship management.
While GVG will work with agents only as each firm’s agreement specifies, from a philosophical perspective, Giersdorf says these smaller, niche operators both on the cruise and tour side provide travel agents with a real opportunity. “It is so difficult today as a travel agent to differentiate one’s self and demonstrate value-added expertise,” he noted.
Giersdorf says that in today’s world, the “barriers to entry in the travel agent field are not high. It’s relatively easier today than in the past to work in this exciting field.”
Thus, Giersdorf says agents should focus on selling authentic, unique experiences provided by niche cruise lines or specialty tour operators, because consumers usually can book a mass-market experience through almost any travel agent. He describes the latter as: “the same, mostly price-driven promotional mess.”
“If I were a travel agent today I would so embrace the unique and the special and have my Web site show that, because it immediately differentiates me from everybody else’s Web site,” Giersdorf stressed. “These products [we represent] don’t sell on price. They sell on value, quality and experience.” The price points are thus higher and the transaction revenue for booking one of these trips is higher than mass-market offerings.
As aging Baby Boomers demand specialty travel that’s more destination-focused and experience-driven, Giersdorf believes GVG has the vision to understand that increasing market penetration in both trade and consumer circles is “a puzzle that needs to be put together in different ways through different clients. Our job is to identify the most effective way for these companies to go to market in North America.”
He also stressed that travel agents shouldn’t be expected to carry all the burden of educating consumers about these specialty products. “Cruise [and tour] operators must do an effective job of reaching consumers and creating awareness and excitement," he said.