|Canada Place cruise terminal in Vancouver, host city for cruise3sixty 2013|
Targeting groups and tapping into social networking channels were among the top tips provided by cruise industry and top agency executives during a panel discussion at the 2013 edition of Cruise Lines International Association’s (CLIA) cruise3sixty conference in Vancouver. Here are some highlights.
* Target Affinity Groups: It’s really important for agents to target affinity groups, said Jan Swartz, EVP, sales, marketing and customer services, Princess Cruises and Cunard Line. She said that forming a group cruise based on a specific interest, such as scrapbooking, music, religious organization or gardening, for example, definitely attracts people who might not normally cruise.
* Consider Corporate Groups Too: CLIA President and CEO Christine Duffy, who moderated the discussion, noted that affinity groups tend to go a “little bit viral” and then grow rapidly. She suggested to agents that they also expand their thinking beyond normal leisure affinity groups and consider the corporate group market.
* Upsell and Sell Ancillary Services: Are you leaving money on the table? Nicole Mazza, chief marketing officer, Travelsavers, said some travel advisors are. Her advice is to “upsell” and also earn more revenue by selling air (if your consortia or host group has commissionable product) or suggest to clients about a pre- or post-cruise hotel stay.
* Tap Social Networking Channels: For agents to be highly successful in today’s world, “we have to talk about social media,” said Andy Stuart, EVP, global sales and passenger services, Norwegian Cruise Line. Norwegian engaged in a highly visible and successful Facebook program during cruise3sixty—communicating with travel agents via social networking. Stuart said businesses must go social in order to reach and communicate with their customers who are doing the same.
* Stay Current with Industry Developments: If you don’t follow cruise line moves, you may miss opportunities about new itineraries, ship features, cruise line promotions or destination experiences, said Swartz.
* Ask for the Business: Dondra Ritzenthaler, senior VP, sales and trade support and services, Celebrity Cruises, said that some agents still tell her, “I was just too nervous to ask for a credit card” at the critical point where they could have closed the sale. It’s good to ask: “So what kind of card can I take to get you started on an amazing vacation?” Don’t be afraid to ask for the business. “You will rock and roll if you get over that fear of asking for a sale,” she stressed.
Other advice for agents included: be available beyond 9 to 5; tap into supplier tools and future cruise sales programs; go after land clients; and secure testimonials and cultivate referrals from cruise clients. For more tips, search “cruise3sixty” at www.travelagentcentral.com.