For Envisioning Growth with Agent Stars
Seasoned hotelier Yiannis Vontas fell in love with the small-ship and boutique cruising concept after a 20-year career with Hilton International and several Greek hospitality chains. In 2004, Vontas and several partners expanded Variety Cruises’ small-ship Greek operation into a global boutique brand that now has itineraries from Costa Rica to West Africa, Bali to Iceland, Greece to the Red Sea, Borneo and beyond. Annual revenues surged from $8 million to $30 million-plus.
Since Variety isn’t the biggest line in the ocean, though, Vontas, who is both executive vice president - development and marketing, and partner, as well as his internal team have tapped into the Variety Stars program with 2,500 travel agent members; advisors receive stars for bookings, and after five stars, receive free travel on Variety for themselves and a companion.
Moving forward, Vontas plans to invest even more in Variety Stars’ communications and become closer to those agents as a way of reaching more consumers. One accomplishment this year? Variety’s first 360/VR (virtual reality) video was recently shot in Greece, designed for use by agents during the sales conversation.
In a refreshing approach, Vontas also champions cruise industry diversity, even welcoming new entrants. He says they help build marketplace excitement and demand, while also emphasizing that not all small ship brands are alike. Differentiation matters. So, moving forward, he’s focused on product enhancements, fleet re-investment, new vessels, such new destinations as Japan, New Zealand and French Polynesia, and ocean preservation too. All Variety ships will go “plastic free” this year and next.