Having spent my entire career in cruising, this industry has become my second home, and the employees, industry partners, travel advisors and ship’s crew I’ve worked alongside have become family. I’ve watched the industry experience incredible growth, meet challenges with tenacity, and evolve continuously to deliver guests memorable and immersive experiences, both on board and ashore. This is an unprecedented time unlike anything our industry, and the world, has ever seen, and there are still many uncertainties ahead. But, by working together, I am confident we will get through this and emerge stronger, smarter and equipped to meet the needs of the future of travel.
As an industry, we know we are not in this alone, and we understand that this has also been a difficult time for our valued travel partners. The travel advisor community has been incredibly resilient, and we are grateful for their continued trust as we navigate this together. Trusted advisors are key to propelling the industry forward, and their guidance, advice and insight is vital to clients who are wary, but also eager to get back to traveling. We are here to provide our unwavering support, which is why we are committed to protecting commissions on their clients’ original bookings and providing full commission on the rescheduled cruises they book for any sailings cancelled by MSC Cruises. More than that, our goal is to continue offering our partners the tools and resources to effectively plan by sharing materials, webinar opportunities and details of future operations as soon as possible.
Now is the time for advisors to take advantage of this pause and prepare themselves to successfully ramp up activity upon the return of cruising. This begins by rekindling connections with their current client base. With more time on their hands, clients may be receptive to a larger discussion around their future travel plans, allowing the advisor to gather valuable insight to plan. Advisors have the opportunity to reach out and ask meaningful questions like “How long after restrictions are lifted are you going to be ready to cruise again?” “Would you prefer to stay close to home, or would you be willing to fly to a further homeport?” “Are you looking for a quick getaway or are you open to a longer cruise option?” By gathering responses from a varied demographic — seniors, families, millennials and gen X clients —advisors can gain insight into how sentiment may differ by group. With this valuable information in hand — directly from their customers — travel advisors can effectively prioritize their post-pandemic sales and marketing tactics once their clients return to travel.
Travel advisors should also look to help their clients take advantage of increased booking flexibility and Future Cruise Credit options that are now being offered. For example, MSC Cruises’ Cruise Assurance Program has been extended through September 30, 2020 which allows guests to be more comfortable looking ahead to their future cruises. And, guests whose sailings have been canceled can opt for a 125% Future Cruise Credit, providing them an opportunity to upgrade their stateroom category, treat themselves to add-ons that they pre-purchase such as specialty dining, beverage packages, Wi-Fi, and spa treatments, or even possibly turn one vacation into two future cruises.
Critical to rebuilding consumers trust in cruising is going to be ensuring guests understand and are comfortable with the health and safety measures in place. Rest assured that the health and safety of our guests and crew is a top priority for MSC Cruises, as well as the industry as a whole. Those who are familiar with cruising will know that the industry has always had strict measures and reporting procedures in place, and throughout the COVID-19 outbreak we enhanced those measures even further, including more rigorous health checks and increased deep sanitation of the ships. MSC Cruises has now established a global task force dedicated to carefully evaluating our protocols and determining how we can be even better in the future. This includes looking at embarkation and disembarkation processes, overall ship capacity, food and beverage service, and even entertainment offerings. And, this is not only being considered on board, but in our various ports of call and on Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, our new private island destination in the Bahamas. As plans come to fruition, we will share more specific details with the travel advisor community who will ultimately play a significant role in helping us reassure and excite guests about the cruise experience of the future — one that takes into account increased health and safety measures, while still providing the vacation they have grown to know and love.
Cruising has continuously evolved throughout the years, exceeding guest expectations with new, innovative features and experiences. This is yet another opportunity for the industry to advance to a new era of cruising. MSC Cruises has an incredible fleet of glamourous and modern ships, amongst the youngest in the industry, and during this temporary pause, we’re exploring new destinations, itineraries and cruise programs that will allow us to come back even stronger when we relaunch our cruises.
We will sail off into the horizon again, and the cruise industry is counting on its dedicated travel partners to help successfully bring guests back to sea. We are confident that through strong partnership, hard work and open communication, we will thrive once again. In the meantime, remind your clients the cruise industry is open for business and bookings are available for cruise vacations even though we are not currently sailing. And, prepare yourself for the pent-up demand we expect to see in the very near future.