Everywhere you go, everyone says they want to disconnect. But do they really? A recent trend in the cruise industry towards incorporating free WiFi in the total cruise fare is supporting the fact that more travelers recognize connectivity is actually essential to their vacation peace of mind.
It used to be when travelers booked a vacation, their desire was to unplug completely from their day-to-day world at home. While the longing to digitally detox might still be there, unfortunately the reality is that for many of us, disconnecting entirely can be a difficult, if not an impossible feat to accomplish.
“Today, everyone wants to be connected,” said Ralph Iantosca, owner of Iantosca Travel in Irving, Texas. “Selling the ‘disconnect’ sounds great in theory … however it’s always a struggle. I say most clients would opt for another trip if they couldn’t be connected while at sea.”
For one thing, there’s work. Yes, despite the vacation days your client has accrued, time out of the office doesn’t necessarily mean time off. As an agent who works round the clock, I’m sure you can sympathize with the struggle to balance personal time and the need to be readily available to your clients.
Then there’s the family factor. Are your clients traveling with or without their children? I can tell you from personal experience that, having just spent nine days abroad on a cruise with my husband and without my three teenagers, being able to chat with them and vice versa at a moment’s notice made a world of difference.
I must admit that while I am one of those travelers who dreams about mentally checking out on vacation, I’m admittedly and a bit apologetically more the type who destresses knowing I’m “in the know.” And given this recent move by cruise lines, I’m willing to bet I’m not in the minority.
So, can connectivity seal the deal or even break the deal when it comes to your client’s vacation choices? Most agents we spoke to said, “Absolutely, yes!”
Here are the reasons why your clients want to stay connected:
Gone are the days of taking pictures for your own albums. Today picture sharing is all about impressing the rest. Whether it’s Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or just plain email, there is a growing desire for travelers to feel fulfilled by the accolades and compliments of others.
Avoiding work pile-up
We’ve all been there. You come back from a restful vacation, only to have to weed through hundreds of emails before you can even think about getting to the urgent matters at hand. Unplugging has its benefits, but it never means your problems won’t be waiting for you when you return. For many, putting out small fires daily can avoid blazes that could potentially bring the house down later.
Whether via social media or through email, we want our friends and family to hear our latest and greatest adventure and not have to wait until we get home to fill them in. We live in an age where instantaneous gratification is expected and connectivity makes it every bit a reality.
Agents benefit, too
If you’re a travel professional, odds are you are in constant contact with your clients. Day or night, you are their lifeline and go-to source for any and all information. So when choosing those familiarization trips or your own personal getaway, connectivity free of charge might weigh heavily in your decision.
Luxury cruising can include everything from meals and drinks to butler service, laundry and excursions. Add free WiFi to the package and you’ve not only given them yet another free service, you’ve taken the stress away of having to choose a package. “Sometimes they feel nickel-and-dimed, and don’t know how much to buy for Internet access,” said Iantosca. “They feel the packages the ships offer lock them into buying too much time or overcharge them if they don’t buy a package.”
Unfortunately, misfortunes and even tragedies occur on a daily basis and no one can predict when. Having the assurance of connectivity can leave your clients with a feeling of security that cannot be monetized. One agent I spoke to shared the story of his trip to Antarctica and how his mother passed away from stage four cancer while he was leading a group of travelers. “Thanks to being connected, I was able to Facetime her and say my goodbyes. Being connected matters so much.”
For some travelers, there is a limit to how long they are willing to be apart from their loved ones. With free connectivity, being apart just got a whole lot easier to bear. Sharon Balfour, a travel consultant at ProTravel International in San Diego, California, said since more cruise lines started offering free WiFi, it’s helping her sell. “I think even a world cruise can be sold if people have access to WiFi.” Kathii Benn, of Benn Travel, added matter-of-factly: “My clients would not take a long trip if they didn’t have WiFi and they would pay for it if necessary.”
In the case of many cruise lines, the need to pay no longer exists – as does the need to worry.
FROM THE SPONSOR: Silversea offers the most competitive complimentary unlimited WiFi access (up to four devices for premium suites; up to two devices for standard suites) to every suite on board all of our intimate, ultra-luxury ships. While traveling to the most beautiful destinations in the world, stay connected with loved ones, post on social media or even catch up on emails. Free unlimited WiFi is the latest addition to Silversea’s existing array of all-inclusive shipboard amenities, which includes a selection of complimentary wines, premium spirits, specialty coffees, bottled water, juices and soft drinks; in-suite bar stocked with guests' preferences; in-suite dining service; lecture and enrichment programs; and round-trip transportation into town (in most ports for classic cruises), among others. With over 900 ports of call, Silversea brings its guests to the far reaches of the world while traveling with all the comforts of luxury.