Send Them Sailing

The news coming out of the CLIA cruise3sixty conference in Fort Lauderdale late last month was overwhelmingly inspiring for the 1,200 travel agents who attended. Dan Hanrahan, chairman of CLIA's marketing committee and president of Celebrity Cruises, pointed to research showing that 68 percent of those "Gen Xers" surveyed have shown a strong indication to go on a cruise. That's fabulous news for those who are concerned that the vast wave of baby boomers who are retiring at a rapid rate will eventually hit a low ebb, leaving a dearth of potential cruise clients.

Marketing Tips

Research I've seen shows that Generation X responds to direct mail, but they want to feel the message that's sent is relevant to them. That's where customized marketing comes in, so be sure that your client management system contains as much data on these clients as possible and that the technology available to you can sort out this information and create mailings that speak particularly to this audience.

One of the most brilliant yet simple marketing strategies I've seen recently comes from the Ensemble Travel Group, which is able to take one cruise promotion and design direct mail messages around it for a variety of audiences. For example, while one mailer speaks of "timeless memories together, plus great shipboard savings" to attract grandparents and families, that same pricing offer is alternately positioned to a younger crowd with lead-in lingo that promotes "cool surf, awesome ship, hot sand." Ensemble reports that it has enjoyed great success with these subtle marketing messages, and I'm not surprised.

Other thoughts on Gen Xers? They're hardworking, so your job may also include convincing them to take a vacation in the first place. They've also shown a tendency toward skepticism (and you thought boomers were bad!), so you'd better have all your ducks in a row when you pitch them on a trip.

Other good tidings from Hanrahan included the fact that cruise lines are advertising on television more than ever, which means there is the potential that more clients will be calling you to arrange a cruise for them. For this reason, it's vital that you learn the various personalities of all of the cruise lines. If you are able to learn the charms of each ship within their fleets, you'll be better suited to provide a great vacation for your client.

Selling Land Excursions

Current consumer trends indicate that people are now less interested in collecting things than in collecting experiences, said Hanrahan. For this reason, more varied land excursions are increasingly in demand. Now, I realize that there is concern from the agency community that most of the shore excursions offered by the cruise lines are not commissionable, but I suggest that you spend time anyway with your clients to select the options that will let them interact with their ports of call as much as possible. In the end, their overall cruise experience will be a happier one, and they'll be likely to return to you for their next voyage.

Lastly, Hanrahan noted that there are more varied travel parties hitting the high seas together than ever before. Think multi-generational travelers, those who are arranging to celebrate their weddings at sea, and those who have latched onto the newly hatched concept of the girlfriends' getaway. There is practically a cruising opportunity for everyone these days. It remains up to you to pull the customer in, match them with the correct ship, and send them sailing.

Ruthanne Terrero, CTC EDITORIAL DIRECTOR [email protected]