Easily overlooked in the pressure of daily operations are the sales and promotional opportunities that can increase profitability even in a downturn. One current example is the Cruise Lines Industry Association’s (CLIA) innovative World’s Largest Cruise Night (WLCN) promotion. The October 13 event ranks not only as the cruise industry’s single largest promotion of the year - and the centerpiece of National Cruise Vacation Month – but one of the best.
Not only is WLCN free to CLIA members but also it is a proven sales generator. According to CLIA, the WLCN has grown larger every year and in 2009 generated more than $45 million in cruise sales and almost $6 million in travel agent commissions. Nearly 50,000 consumers attended physical WLCN cruise events held by a record 1,309 participating agencies. In addition, nearly 2,800 agencies participated in virtual WLCN promotions, CLIA reports.
This years WLCN may be even larger, as agents push the value and diversity of cruise vacations to the traveling public. “This is a great opportunity for agents and agencies and we urge every agent to sign on for the WLCN,” Jim Smith, director of Marketing for CLIA said. ”We have built in lots of flexibility into the program and lots of great tools to make it work. One agency with 20 agents can have twenty-one different approach’s to promote cruise sales under one agency's umbrella. We invite agents to start planning now, well in advance of the date.”
Smith notes that WLCN is tailored to agent and agency needs – online and offline. Whether participants choose a "bricks and mortar" special agency event, a month-long online promotion, or a combination of both, the WLCN can heighten awareness of cruising, attract new customers and improve the agency's bottom line. It also reflects CLIA’s innovative approaches to supporting cruise sales. One noteworthy feature is enhanced and expanded agency WLCN microsites that can showcase cruise products online as well as agency and agent expertise.
CLIA has also made it easy to get started. Agents can register, gather promotional materials and get more information about WLCN, at www.cruising.org/travelagents. The site is loaded with information – including videos. There are descriptions and advice about possible special event ideas that range from book store parties and corporate presentations to educational seminars, dance parties, events at golf and tennis clubs and cruise reunions.
There are also links to advertising and public relations tools, a guide to attracting new clients and easy instructions for creating an agency WLCN microsite – one of the innovations CLIA has added. Agents may also obtain a wealth of marketing materials at the site, including press release shells, postcard and flyer templates, logos and other marketing assistance.
Last year's traditional events, CLIA reports, were diverse and held in travel agency offices, hotel ballrooms, restaurants, luxury car dealerships, convention centers and even comedy clubs. Virtual events also scored high. This includes sending e-mail invitations to consumers inviting them to visit their customized WLCN web site with cruise line videos, agency contact information and special offers. CLIA estimates consumers viewed 50,481 WLCN cruise line videos. Smith believes that the virtual approach can support the traditional approach and vice versa and pay both long term and short term dividends.
CLIA notes that, this year, the virtual program site has a new look. Agents can also participate throughout the month of October with their own free microsite. Agents have the option to present as many as seven cruise line videos as well as expanded space for sales messages, agency logos and photos that agents can upload.
Agencies planning to host both a physical event and a virtual promotion can sign up online for both at one time. To view WLCN tutorial videos on CLIA Vision go to www.cruising.org/clia-vision/clias-worlds-largest-cruise-night.
Bob Sharak, CLIA’s executive vice president summed it up neatly. "We urge all our members to plan now and sign up. The "World’s Largest Cruise Night” is a proven success and, as the economy continues to strengthen and consumers become more confident about spending, WLCN is the best way to grab their attention.”
There may be better ways to promote and sell cruises, but until they are found, CLIA’s WLCN can take the honors for a well though out and presented program that will build business for travel agents and cruise lines. CLIA has done its job – with distinction - now its up to travel agents to deliver with flair and imagination.
Have you participated in CLIA’s WLCN program? Are there any shortfalls or improvement that you can suggest? Has WCLN worked for you and your agency to build sales? Let us know. We want to hear from you. Post a comment below. Write us at our Facebook page. Send a tweet to our Twitter page. Join the discussion in real time at AgentNation. We'll share your feedback in upcoming features and stories.