As 2017 draws to a close, 64 percent of cruise sellers taking a recent Travel Agent survey say their land-based sales (beach stays, hotel bookings, all-inclusive resorts, escorted tours and city packages) will be higher than in 2016.
Four percent say they aren't sure, though, and 32 percent believe their land sales won't be higher than 2016.
Creating Sales Options
But two thirds of those cruise sellers are clearly broadening their sales scope. While cruising remains a top focus, for many it's no longer the only focus. That's a philosophy several trade selling groups are encouraging -- and in a big way.
Michelle Fee, CEO and co-founder, Cruise Planners, (shown in the photo above) reports that her group collectively posts about 66 percent to 70 percent of sales as cruise bookings.
But while she says Cruise Planners will always have a strong focus on cruise and has no plans to change the organization's name, she also says her agents are now selling more land-based products and luxury options too.
Why? Agents must keep evolving, just as their clients do, she tells her franchise owners. Even clients who love cruising may not choose to cruise every year. While they may have absolutely loved their Mediterranean cruise last year, for next year, they may desire to instead book an escorted tour or Las Vegas city stay this year. Or they may opt for a second getaway in addition to their annual cruise – perhaps an all-inclusive Caribbean resort stay.
Last year, CruiseOne gave its franchise owners a choice – to continue operating under the CruiseOne name or assume broader positioning under the banner of the new Dream Vacations brand.
Agency owners chose to switch names or not. It was up to them. In an update this week, Travel Agent learned that approximately 70 percent of CruiseOne agencies have made the switch and are now operating as Dream Vacations.
From one cruise executive's perspective, the change from CruiseOne to Dream Vacations was a good move.
“I thought that was a huge win,” says Vicki Freed, senior vice president, sales, trade support & service, Royal Caribbean International (shown at right above, along with Debbie Fiorino of World Travel Holdings).
Why? Freed believes that the word “cruise” in a business name could – in the potential client’s mind – signal that agents don’t sell anything else.
"You don’t want to lose your clients to somebody else because they don’t think you sell other types of vacations,” Freed said, noting that consumers have a desire for variety in life, including their vacation choices.
Sometimes, a cruise is the perfect vacation, Freed said, but at other times, it may not be. The overarching goal for cruise sellers, says Freed, should be to retain loyal clients. So the next time those clients are ready to cruise, they have a skilled agent to assist.
Increasing Land Sales
Reporting higher land sales for 2016, according to our survey, were both Kathy Lunceford, franchise owner and luxury travel specialist, Cruise Planners of Blue Ridge, GA, as well as Darci Upham, owner, CruiseOne of Hampstead, NC.
“My land sales have grown significantly compared to 2016,” said Upham. “Most of my land sales have been all-inclusive resorts.”
In addition, Holly Tucker of Tucker Travel, a Nexion agent in Hendersonville, NC, is selling “lots of escorted tours” while Lois Sposa, owner, Embrace the World Travel, LLC, an independent agent in the Avoya Travel Network, similarly said: “In addition to cruises, I started selling escorted tours and it’s been very lucrative.”
Even agents who don’t expect higher land sales this year see the potential including Jack Fingerman of Cruises Inc., Mount Laurel, NJ: “We need to concentrate more on land/resort/all inclusive/tour sales.”
As the cruise industry grows, it's imperative to attract more first-to-cruise guests, according to Freed. To do that, "I think it’s a benefit not only to travel agents but also to cruise lines for having travel agents sell all kinds of vacations,” she says.
“They’re the gatekeepers to opening up opportunities for those first-to-cruise guests," Freed emphasizes. "Yes, we can tell our story but first timers come with misperceptions...and the travel agent becomes the guider – the person that can explain the story” about why a cruise makes a great vacation.
So when the client comes in the door and wants to book a series of city stays in Europe, such as taking flights from Rome to Monte Carlo and then on to Barcelona, the agent can explain that “yes, you could do that, but did you know that it's perhaps easier or more value-inclusive to take a cruise. ”
"In order to attract those [new to cruise people], the best vehicle we have is really the travel agency community,” Freed stresses.
More Luxury Too
In addition to reporting higher land-based sales, agents taking our recent survey also say luxury sales are another area of increasing opportunity.
Are they selling more luxury travel in 2017 versus 2016? The agents say:
- Yes – 68 percent
- No – 32 percent.
Fee reminds her agents that the client seeking affordability who booked a four-day short cruise for a vacation last year may navigate into a luxury cruise in just a few years.
The message for cruise sellers? Keep doing what you're doing. Promote and sell cruises and reap the revenue rewards, as the industry keeps expanding with more berths, new ships and new itineraries.
But our experts and cruise sellers say to not overlook both luxury options and land-based sales to help contribute to the bottom line.