“You can put your head in the sand or dare to do something different,” Drew Daly, senior vice president and general manager, Dream Vacations, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc., told 1,000 travel advisors onboard Royal Caribbean International’s Symphony of the Seas this week.
Speaking at the brands’ 2019 National Conference, Daly was intent on moving agents beyond their comfort zone. That was also the intent of the "Dare" conference theming.
To help agents do that, the home office team also unveiled new or enhanced programs and services to help advisors build their businesses.
Rosemarie Reed, senior vice president of marketing for the three brands, as well as marketing managers Kimberly Faiello and Alicia Linden, laid out what’s new for marketing and promotion -- helping the 1,000 agents attending the conference “up their game” in the marketplace.
“Actions speak louder than words,” said Reed in telling the audience that the brands recently moved away from one third-party vendor for direct mail and instead selected what she described as a “best in class” direct mail partner.
So, for 2020, “we’re revolutionizing our direct mail program,” said Reed. Dream Vacations and CruiseOne will participate in the Travel Leaders Network direct mail program. That elicited strong applause from the audience.
Agents will benefit from a 44 percent increase in direct mail pieces (free touchpoints) to keep their names in front of their customers. They will also be able to capitalize on Travel Leaders Network’s sophisticated data system to target customers and deliver offers that address each client’s personal needs.
Agencies also will have their customized brand logo and information on the direct mail pieces.
In addition, the brands are planning “next level geo-targeting”– focused more narrowly on customers in a specific region.
For example, Oasis of the Seas, an Oasis-class vessel, is moving to the northeastern U.S. in 2020, so the marketing targets the right audience to let them know the ship is coming. It’s a good example of how a geo-targeted message would work well in New York or Connecticut to draw clients, but not in California or Washington state.
Geo-targeted promotions will consider four major factors – demographics including age, gender and marital status; psychographics including what inspires people, their lifestyle and mindset; behavior or where they previously traveled and how; and geographic locations.
Advisors can then also use the geo-targeted promotions in custom marketing assets, email templates, flyers and on social media. They’ll target appropriate customers in their specific region.
In addition, the brands are adding a targeted military tool kit program. That’s “live” now in the “command center,” and this tool is a one-stop shop for everything military, for those advisors who wish to promote to this market.
Look for a tool kit with marketing assets, training and education designed to help advisors who wish to go after this market. Agents don’t have to be veterans to participate, although 35 percent of the agent network is comprised of military veterans.
So for those advisors, the brands provide business cards or other promotional items that can include information about the advisor having served in the military.
Reed said that if any agent wishes to participate and leverage the new military demographics, this is a program to consider.
In addition, Reed said agents have always asked “when are we going to have national television advertising,” something that no franchise group had done, given the multimillion-dollar cost. “It was hard to do,” Reed noted.
But recently, Dream Vacations was highlighted on several major national television cooking, talk or game shows with a national promotion. Winners or special guests received a free cruise.
Reed showed video clips from the Rachel Ray Show, the Steve Harvey Show and Wheel of Fortune. Now those promotions are providing leads to both CruiseOne and Dream Vacations
“We’re so proud to make it happen, and we’re the only franchise agency on television with something like this,” Reed said.
The promotion has already aired several times on Wheel of Fortune, with the seventh episode of that promotion appearing this Friday, October 25. "There are 30 more episodes coming your way in the next few months through early 2020,” Reed told the advisors.
In addition, “we know how important online marketing is” so the team has created a new partnership suite of tools to help in online marketing, said Reed. It makes it easy for the advisors to get online reviews and manage those and their social media posts on one platform.
Another new feature? Agents will appear in an updated agent directory, known as the "find your vacation specialist tool." Now advisors can show potential clients specific detail -- their business name, a customizable business paragraph about why they should do business with that agent, their specialties, niches and more.
All reviews feed into this page, and “The best part is that we’re bringing this program for a nominal fee,” said Reed.
Earlier in the week, Sandi Szalay, vice president of information technology, introduced several new online tools to help simplify the river cruise booking process and enhance the way consumers do business with their travel agent.
Starting in November, Dream Vacations, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. agents will be able to book Viking River Cruises with online access, plus real-time pricing and cabin availability through the My Cruise Control booking system.
In addition, agents will be able to save time by using Cruise Reservation Pull technology to capture the reservation details from a cruise line or GOGO Vacations with a click of a button; that will automatically drop the booking information directly into My Cruise Control.
Another technology enhancement will make cruise payments easier for consumers to make, with two new payment options. Based on customer feedback, the brands have added self-service payments. So after the initial booking and deposit, clients will have the flexibility of making subsequent payments online.
Guests will pay online when they want and how they want, but still have the comfort of knowing that they have a travel agent as their advocate.
Second, through a new UpLift strategic partnership, customers will be able to purchase their travel now, but pay later, with monthly payments over a 12-month period offered at competitive interest rates. Using UpLift, clients can even travel before paying for the trip or cruise.
Stay tuned for more from the Dream Vacations, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. conference onboard Symphony of the Seas.