|AmaWaterways' AmaVerde in Budapest // Photo by Susan J. Young|
When it comes to selling river cruises to first-timers, agents typically need to explain the differences between ocean and river products. They also must talk about the level of cuisine, the onboard experience, and the space and amenities of modern hotel style staterooms and suites.
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What can help agents in their discussion with clients? Often, sound and motion – or sensory selling – is a great way for clients to easily envision and identify with what a pampering river cruise is all about.
“Videos are instrumental in painting the whole picture to customers about the entire river cruise experience," says Drew Daly, vice president of sales performance, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc.
He believes video - used either during a sales presentation or on a cruise night - is highly effective in helping customers envision themselves relaxing on the river and experiencing the adventure of new destinations and historical cultures. "I always recommend our agents to play a video, or short clip, in the midst of a presentation," Daly says.
Online Cruise Line Videos
Many river lines including Viking River Cruises (www.vikingrivercruises.com) recognize the sales value of video. They are among those putting videos prominently on the landing page of their websites.
Topically, Viking’s videos reveal specific individual facets of the river experience that an agent can use – river cruising in general, the Viking Longships, destinations, Russia, enrichment, food, Viking Voices, China and television.
Similarly, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection (www.uniworld.com) has a dedicated video page; agents just click on the “Why Uniworld” tab on the home page to find the “View Videos” tab.
Reaching this page - www.uniworld.com/Media-Center/Video-Center - agents will discover everything from “One Room – A Thousand Views” to “New Way to See the World” and “Holiday Markets,” along with 15 other videos.
Whatever the line, "the videos take a deeper dive into the onboard experience from staterooms, common areas, dining experiences and the top deck," emphasizes Daly. He also says the videos focus on the itinerary's scenic beauty as travelers cruise along with views of quaint villages and local historic towns.
Many videos also demonstrate the tours that are offered throughout the experience and the localized onboard entertainment. For example, the Uniworld holiday video vividly describes the Christmas market traditions of Europe.
Clients will hear sounds of the season, see the steam rising from roasted chestnuts, view twinkling lights and colorful holiday markets, and hear commentary with key selling points about the experience - “no busy highways, no checking into yet another hotel.”
Avalon Waterways (www.avalonwaterways.com) also has a video tab on the front page of its Web site. Agents can click on that to land on a page with detailed experiential videos (www.avalonwaterways.com/interactive-suite). These include “River Cruise Dining Options” and other experiential topics, plus geographically focused videos, such as Asia and Egypt.
Also helpful are Avalon's separate virtual ship tours with a 360-degree option for viewing such ship spaces as the top deck, lobby/atrium, fitness room, club lounge and so on.
Scenic Cruises (us.scenictours.com) offers a Video Gallery (http://us.scenictours.com/why-scenic/video-gallery) with such choices as “South America – The Amazon” to “Onboard a Scenic Space-Ship."
While many river lines and tour operators with river products often have a dedicated video page, others like AmaWaterways (www.amawaterways.com) integrate any videos directly into itinerary pages.
So when you want to help a client see what an AmaWaterways cruise on the Zambezi River in Africa is like, you just head to that itinerary page and hit video symbol. (www.amawaterways.com/ships/zambezi-queen).
|Photo by Uniworld Boutique River Cruises|
Enhancing the Sales Process
Videos can deliver a sizable sales benefit for agents, according to Daly: "The video helps solidify the sale as it is hard not to picture yourself enjoying all of the niceties onboard. Consumers immediately connect the dots with the value proposition the product has to offer.”
There's another perk as well. If you’re planning to position a specific river cruise with a client - perhaps meeting with them later in the day to discuss it, then use the videos as course refreshers to assure you're using the same top selling points the lines do.
Why? This gives you a chance to re-immerse yourself in the experience before you attempt to draw a valued client into a discussion about it. You’ll be much more effective if you’re passionate about the experience.
Write down key words from the videos. Note the specific points the lines make. Remember, many lines have done extensive research about what attracts clients to book.
In addition, check out the latest videos on www.youtube.com as agents who put in “river cruise” in the search box will uncover a slew of line and consumer videos that may be helpful in the sales process.
But video is still just one of many tools that may help agents in the sales process. Needs also vary by agency.
Debbie Kirk, Travel Leaders of Lynwood, WA, says that although her agency keeps a screen that projects various videos in the lobby, and some of them are for river cruising, she can't honestly say they're the prime way to generate interest in the market.
"What is probably more helpful for our business is building agent awareness of the product by scheduling a variety of river cruise companies fairly often for staff trainings," she says. "We’ve also done invitation-only cruise nights, including one coming up with Viking River Cruises. These have gone extraordinarily well."
Daly, though, remains a strong fan of video: "Although river cruising has gained popularity, it is still a relatively new concept to many customers, even avid cruisers, and these videos enable agents to turn the foreign concept into a tangible experience."