This week, Cunard’s new vice president of sales Jamie Paiko took some time to talk to Travel Market Report about the plans for Cunard coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The goal for Paiko and her team is to continue to connect with Cunard’s trade partners on a personalized level. Paiko told TMR that she wants to be able to tailor marketing plans, using her experience before joining Cunard’s sales team, to each advisor’s or agency’s needs.
“I strongly believe in tailoring strategies to the needs of our trade partners,” Paiko told TMR. “We might have a blanket promotion but we’ll also look to individual advisors and agencies to give them the tools that move the needle for them. Whether that’s cruise nights, tailoring groups, or utilizing amenities.”
That goal is going to drive Cunard’s relationships regardless of the size of the agency, too. Whether it is a single advisor who has not booked Cunard yet or a major agency that drives revenue through the line, Paiko wants Cunard to be able to be their best partner.
“We’re going to have big agencies that we are going to work with…we also look at smaller agencies, whether they are brick-and-mortar or online agencies. We want to pursue all opportunities that have the largest potential for growth,” she said.
That category will include some advisors who have succeeded with Cunard by stepping out of the norm—Paiko told TMR that one partner that they work with only books dance groups on Cunard, a theme that brings in heavy business some years and less robust business others.
Even with how specialized that niche is, “we give them the personal attention to sustain and grow their business.” That is something that Paiko wants Cunard to focus on going forward.
“We have about 30 BDMs in the market in CAD and the US who are going into the field, meeting with agencies, and building these relationships – there is a combination of this give and take to be able to build this business,” she added.
Still working to restart sailings, future plans
Paiko told TMR that Cunard, which is part of Carnival Corp., still has not made decisions on making vaccinations mandatory onboard. “Not yet,” she said.
As for when Cunard could restart (right now the line has paused through at least June), Paiko said, “It is a combination of everything” and “fluid day-to-day.”
She also told TMR that her team has been ramping up operations as even with sailings still on hold, demand is increasing. While 2022 bookings are strong, particularly for Alaska, Paiko is expecting strong interest for 2023 and the 2023 World Voyage.
“Our World Voyage for 2022 is very well sold and for 2023, we expect that there is going to be very high demand, as well. I think, overall, we are going to see quite a bit of demand and we are well prepared,” she said.
Cunard is still planning to bring on its fourth ship at some point in the future to add even more capacity to the line. The line has already celebrated the steel cutting for the ship before the COVID-19 shutdown. It will come into service, joining Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth, as the first new Cunard ship in over a decade. It will also mark the first time Cunard has had four ships in service since 200.
Cunard guests tend to come back, but there are also other opportunities
About half of Cunard’s guests are repeats and bookings coming in during the COVID-19 pandemic have continued to be strong from that population of guests. However, Cunard has also seen a higher uptake with first-time Cunard guests recently, in particular in bookings for the line’s 2022 Alaska cruise season.
Paiko said the feeling is that “people are looking at those once in a lifetime voyages” after being unable to travel during the height of the pandemic. Cunard, being the legacy brand that it is, will be able to capture that market.
“People want to explore the world coming out of this,” she said. “I think what Cunard brings, luxury on a grand scale with a heritage brand, is going to be more important now than ever. We are well-positioned, I think better positioned, coming out than ever before.”
And while Cunard does have a long history, the line recently celebrated its 180th anniversary, that doesn’t mean that it’s stuck in the past.
“People question if heritage means it’s not innovative, but those who know us know that we have got it all,” Paiko said.
Fams and education
For advisors who have not yet sold Cunard, “getting as much education as you can about Cunard and the brand” is going to be the first step, Paiko said.
She recommends taking Cunard’s training through its travel advisor portal. The training includes 15 hours of training across different topics, including time focusing on group business, along with an asset bank with imagery and collateral. That is the start to something that Paiko said is key for advisors—“understanding what we offer and diving into our onboard experience.”
Aside from the education, there are also opportunities for advisors to get onboard after finishing the course. “The big benefit,” Paiko said, is that at the end of it they get the opportunity to take a free Cunard voyage.
For advisors who want to experience Cunard’s onboard product differently, a new HBO movie called Let Them All Talk, which features Meryl Streep, Dianne Wiest, Candice Bergen, Lucas Hedges, and Gemma Chan, also captures what life onboard Cunard ships are like.
The movie, which takes place aboard a Queen Mary 2 transatlantic crossing, is part of a promotion from Cunard that will allow a winner and a guest to sail the same route that the characters sail in the movie. Advisors and consumers can go to the sweepstakes’ website for more details.