As the cruise industry begins to gain steam again, many travel advisors are still dealing with a pressing obstacle in the sales process: lack of consumer confidence. But just like every other crisis that they have faced and overcome, travel advisors are again rising to the challenge.
Here are five conversation starters to help inspire your cruise clients to take to the high seas, and the reasons why they work.
1. How do you feel about planning an amazing vacation to make up for the past 18 months of not traveling?
“Questions like this seem to generate positive responses because there is pent-up demand to get back out and explore,” said Matthew Eichhorst, president of Expedia Cruises. “Travel is a force for good in the world. It opens your eyes to a broader view of the world around you. So from exploring museums to shopping at local markets, travel helps people experience the world in a fresh way and offers moments that help people better appreciate it. Missing out on these types of human experiences are why travelers have been receptive to discussing upcoming cruise options.”
2. Are you vaccinated and feel ready to get back to cruising?
Those who want to get back to traveling generally understand and accept the importance of pandemic protocols to ensure their safety as well as the safety of other travelers. In fact, a recent Expedia Group Traveler Value Index survey report found that nearly three-quarters of travelers are comfortable with the concept of a vaccine passport.
What’s more, the survey showed that enhanced cleaning and disinfection was the second-highest priority specifically among cruise travelers. This is why communicating health and safety requirements is critical to rebuilding traveler confidence in the wake of COVID-19, explained Eichhorst.
3. Cruising itineraries are starting to firm up. Are you hoping to get a great deal on a cruise?
The main reason for using this question is that it provides an opportunity for the travel advisor to understand the prospect’s or client's real interest to cruise. It also presents an opportunity to set reasonable expectations, considering that many of the cruise lines are not as focused on deep discounts as some may think.
Orben R. Torres, travel advisor at Cruise Planners, went on to say that: “We explain that the best thing that cruise lines are offering is actually flexible rebooking policies – and that this may end sooner rather than later. We think this works because it addresses a misconception that many have about waiting for a great deal. It provides a more realistic understanding about where the cruise industry is and how to feel comfortable with flexible planning options.”
4. My wife Maria and I have booked a cruise to [destination] with [cruise line] on [date] that we’re planning for ourselves. Would you like to join us?
Torres said that he and his wife Maria, also a travel advisor, have been cautious about travel during the pandemic. Their clients are aware of this, and they've been very supportive of their clients’ concerns all along the way. So, they feel they will generate interest by inviting clients to join them for various cruises that they have booked for themselves.
To help spread the word, the Torres duo “has tools to create webpages with specific details of our upcoming cruises that can be shared to help grow small groups. But we've also had cruise line representatives step up and coordinate with us to present virtual cruise nights to further develop interest for our itineraries.”
Another travel advisor who leads by example is Jimmy “Chip” Barker, Platinum Agent, at Oceans & Lands: Custom Travel Planners. He explained: “I made the personal choice, early in COVID’s origins that if I could travel, I would. And so, I have continued to personally travel and help my clients who have also chosen to do so. And I post and talk about those experiences, a lot. I’m of the mindset that if someone isn’t ready to cruise or travel in general, I’m not going to try to convince them it’s ok. That’s a very personal choice and I’m not a medical doctor, so I feel my trying to talk someone into hopping on a ship if they’re scared still, isn’t something I would do. But if I can share the travel experience during COVID and highlight why we felt safe and had a fantastic time, I feel like my and my clients’ actions are what will inspire those who are on the fence to get off of it and get back out there. So I’m posting a lot on social media – real, recent travel and cruise experiences.”
5. Tell me your two favorite experiences during your last cruise vacation.
Jill LaBarre, VP Business Development, OASIS Travel Network, said she uses this implied question “to get clients back in the mindset of how much they enjoyed cruising. Then I build on their answers and address how those experiences are enhanced today.”
Even though cruising still has pandemic-related regulations and restrictions, dreaming of wonderful places to sail to continues to bring inspiration to people. Travelers are always up for thinking about a new adventure that promises to expand their life experience.
We hope you can use some of these conversation starters in your daily interactions with clients. And we encourage you to consider Eichhorst’s elegant summary of the current state of selling cruises: “After more than a year of shutdowns, isolation and connecting only through videoconferencing, travelers are ready to explore again – and travel forges human connection in a way no digital experience can replicate. That said, the factors impacting cruising decisions have changed, which is understandable, so returning to pre-pandemic cruising will take some time, but we are getting there. Until then, the key is being transparent with the latest cruise protocols and policies, while supplementing that with videos and photos of our customers who have already cruised again to highlight their positive experiences and help ease any lingering concerns.”
FROM THE SPONSOR:
Virgin Voyages is a new lifestyle travel brand focused on delivering irresistible cruise vacations. The brand currently has four ships on order with master shipbuilder Fincantieri; and has operations in the U.S., UK and across Europe. Virgin Voyages’ first ship, Scarlet Lady, was designed to reflect a yacht’s sleek luxury, offering the intimate, elevated experience of a boutique hotel at sea. Featuring spaces designed by some of the top names in contemporary interiors, Scarlet Lady is adult-by-design and a sanctuary at sea for the 18-plus traveler. A dose of Vitamin Sea will be naturally intertwined across the entire ship, with well-being, relaxation and rejuvenation at the forefront. Scarlet Lady will also feature alluring entertainment and 20-plus world-class intimate eateries onboard. With a modern twist on luxury, coupled with discerning design, Virgin Voyages offers incredible value for its sailors, including unlimited access to all restaurants and eateries, group fitness classes, free WiFi, and tips covered in the voyage fare. Travel advisors can raise their sales with Virgin Voyages' Seacademy; and learn more about current promotions at firstmates.com.