This is part two in a two-part series on Asian cruising
A new survey by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) shows that an increasing number of people are looking past Europe and the Caribbean for cruise destinations.
For travel agents who have a cruise-happy client base, Asia may be what’s next.
Agents may have sold cruises before, but dealing with a region as large, diverse and exotic as Asia can pose some problems to even the most experienced of agents.
While the CLIA survey shows a substantial increase in interest in Asia, the region still only has a 6% share of the cruise market. Some agents believe this is because their clients haven’t truly considered the region.
“Agents need to be more proactive here, saying ‘hey, have you ever thought of Asia?’ Feel free to bring it up. Tell them a little more about Southeast Asia, tell them about the cruise and land packages, and about all the options they have,” said Trinita Brown, a CruiseOne franchisee from Washington, D.C.
Others are already seeing a major uptick in the number of clients interested in taking a cruise in Asia.
Anne-Marie Riley of Travel Trends in Hauppauge, N.Y., has booked five times the number of Asian cruises this year than any other year. She believes that her client base is now looking outside of the Caribbean and Europe for cruises, and Asia seems to be the next big thing.
“I think people are spreading their horizons and places that used to be taboo or far away or out of reach are all of a sudden available,” she said, “but I still do have to mention Asia to a lot of my cruisers.”
Combine the common and exotic
Most people traveling on cruises in the region are Asian passengers, according to the CLIA report, but agents seem to believe that these cruises can attract Western passengers, especially the type that haven’t cruised the region before.
“I think people are looking outside of the Caribbean now,” said Riley. “Asia is very different than the Caribbean; it’s not the ship, it’s the destination.”
This focus on the destination, as opposed to the vessel itself, can help agents attract experienced cruisers.
“Because the destination is so unique, it’s going to be a totally different experience” said Riley. People [now] want to go outside the box.”
For an agent selling an Asian cruise, the key is combining a familiar experience with unfamiliar locations.
Brown said that even for the clients who rather stick with what they know, you can still push an experience in Asia because of the variety of cruise ships traveling the region’s waters.
“If they love Cunard or Crystal, they can go there with that line,” said Brown. “They can be familiar with the ship in a place that maybe they won’t be familiar.”
Every single major cruise line now has ships somewhere in Asia, and most of them have more than one, so guests will have their choice of familiar cruise lines to cruise on.
Familiarize yourself with the region
Agents new to selling agents should familiarize themselves with the geography and culture of the region.
“It helps to get yourself on a fam trip, but even just learning more is going to make it a little more exciting for your client,” said Brown.
Whether there’s interest in Shanghai in the northeast, or Thailand in Southeast Asia, a client’s experiences will vary greatly in different parts of the region.
When a client approaches you in hopes of information, you have to be able to provide specific information about the region’s attractions.
“People are very demanding so you have to know your area and product in order to present it in the correct way,” said Brown. “It will be tough to help clients decide on cruises and excursions if you don’t know your history and geography.”
Dwain Wall, co-president and chief operating officer of WorldCruise.cn, recognized the need for agents to educate themselves about the region “to win the trust and respect of their customers.”
Wall recommends the CLIA training programs that are available to agents, as well as individual cruise line agent training programs.
“Helping agents understand the lines, the ships, and what differentiates them… will help them match their clients with the right cruise vacation.”
Asian Cruise Market Grows as Cruise Lines Expand Offerings