With nearly 100 new cruise ships on their way by 2023, the cruise industry has seen tremendous growth. As agents look to learn the latest and greatest of selling the robust array of cruise products available today, a panel of cruise executives offered up their best tips at the recent Cruise Planners Convention.
Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean International's senior vice president of sales, trade support and service, said the main challenge that arises can come from not only selling, but keeping clients loyal.
Three out of five consumers book through another advisor than the one they first booked through, Freed said. Why? “The answer is not bad service, it is not pricing. They didn’t feel a connection with a travel advisor. This isn’t an everyday purchase. So, they either forgot who the travel advisor was, or they just didn’t feel a need or reason to stay loyal.”
With this in mind, Freed said it’s important to remember that email, while necessary to run your business, does not count as a conversation. “Email is not a relationship builder; it’s a monologue. A phone conversation is a dialogue; you always want to have the give-and-take, back-and-forth, whenever you have that opportunity.”
Other sales tips the cruise executives shared during the seminar include:
Find a partner with an Instagram presence
Camille Olivere, senior vice president of sales for Norwegian Cruise Line, advised finding a partner that has an established Instagram presence, especially because Millennials spend more time on that platform than on Facebook.
“They can do a series of posts for you, and if they get five people on a group that you booked, you can let that Instagram partner lead the group, and that can be your free cabin,” adding that it can also turn into a long-term partnership.
Create human connection
Echoing her point above, Freed suggested calling clients to simply thank them for their business. “When you call a client without selling anything, your clients will feel very valued and appreciated. Even if nothing happens about a future vacation, you really connected with these people.”
Your network is your net worth
“It’s about who is in your circle of influence,” said Eva Jenner, vice president of sales for Holland America Line, who advised building a network by joining groups within your community.
“Look for groups within your community that you can join, that are low cost, so you can build your network of people you know, because as they know you’re a travel agent, they’ll come to you for advice, and that’s how you start building up your business.
Boost social media posts
“Social media advertising is actually pretty affordable, and I think a way you can make your money stretch is by boosting your posts to reach a wider audience,” said Adolfo Perez, vice president, sales and trade marketing, at Carnival Cruise Line.
“Social media, to me, is not about selling. It’s about engaging your customers and sharing experiences you’ve had. And the more experiences you share, the more reliable and the more trusted you are by your clients.”
Michelle Homoky, sales director at Celebrity Cruises, added: “The great thing about Facebook is it’s emotional, and travel is an emotional decision. And when you advertise on Facebook, pictures are worth a thousand words.” She recommended utilizing Facebook.com/business to access tutorials on how to get started.
“You have to be on it to be in the game, in this day and age.”