It takes a contrarian to open a full-service storefront agency in the midst of a consumer movement to online travel sources.
It also takes a contrarian to promote the first full-ship charter commemorating the 100th anniversary of an infamous disaster at sea – the sinking of the Titanic. A contrarian with vision, that is.
British travel veteran Miles Morgan is that contrarian.
Morgan established his eponymous agency, Miles Morgan Travel, in 2006. It was a time when other full-service storefront agencies –– or, as they say in Britain, High Street shops –– were closing in the face of low-price, no-service competition from big online agencies.
Odd time to open an agency
Despite the trend, Morgan, former sales and marketing director for the large U.K. firm Thomson Holidays, believed that consumers would respond to a “smarter alternative” –– good prices paired with good advice.
He was right. Miles Morgan Travel now has 12 shops (and growing) in the southwest of England and the Welsh borders. (See sidebar.)
The agency’s decision to offer two cruises next April commemorating the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic has also proven to be on target.
One cruise, aboard Fred Olsen’s Balmoral, has sold out, and bookings are coming in for the other, a charter of the Azamara Journey, which will sail roundtrip from New York to Halifax.
Morgan discussed his Titantic anniversary cruises and his agency with Travel Market Report.
How do you sell a cruise focused on a famous shipping disaster?
Morgan: Like anything else, understand who your potential customers are and target them.
Who are potential customers for this charter, and what appeals to them?
Morgan: Everyone –– Titanic fans of the history and of the film; relatives of people who were aboard; affluent people and people who have second-mortgaged their house to go; people of every age and from all parts of the world –– a broad target audience!
The appeal is twofold. For some, the journey itself and routing, for others the fact you will be over the site 100 years from the day, hour and minute of its sinking.
How is Miles Morgan Travel targeting potential customers?
Morgan: We have used public relations, Google ads and local travel agents
Why did you choose Azamara for a ship charter?
Morgan: The ship was the right style of vessel for us, classy but not all glass elevators and ice skating rinks! They were also a partner with a can-do attitude, which I liked.
How are sales so far on the Azamara cruise?
Morgan: Going well and increasing all the time –– the latest news on Rod Stewart has caused a lot of interest.
(Editor’s note: Travel Market Report contributing writer Fran Golden recently noted in USA Today’s Cruise Log that British singer Rod Stewart, a Titanic buff, is interested in sailing on an anniversary cruise.)
Can other travel agents sell into the cruise, and is it commissionable?
Morgan: Yes, we pay agents 10% commission. They can book via our consumer website.
What’s your advice for travel agents on how to succeed in ship charters, or with group business in general?
Morgan: Be prepared –– you risk failure. It is very expensive and can go wrong. To start with, research your idea before signing anything. Then go for it with PR, marketing and promotion. Don't fail because you underinvested in any of these.