This article is part of Travel Market Report’s “2019 Outlook on Expedition Cruising,” which was released last week. The Outlook, sponsored by Seabourn, surveyed 660 travel advisors between Feb. 6 and 14, 2019, on their experience selling expedition cruises.
The report, available here, shows that the number of advisors who plan to start selling expedition cruises this year or next will double, in time for a wave of new ships and new itineraries from cruise lines across the board.
Only about half of the advisors and agency managers who responded to Travel Market Report’s 2019 survey on expedition cruises said they are currently selling the product. For those of you who are getting ready to jump on the bandwagon, we looked at what top performers told us – those agents whose expedition cruise sales were up at least 25% last year and they expect revenues from the category to increase by at least 25% again this year.
1. Who should I target?
These elite sellers tell us, as you peruse your database for prospects, 96% of the clients they sell onto expedition cruises are well-traveled. Other strong indicators are that they have taken land-based adventure or soft-adventure trips, and they like to travel to remote exotic and remote destinations. Looking towards the future, 60% said luxury travelers will be at the top of the list. The advisors say they also will look at customers who take multiple vacations of seven or more days each per year.
2. Are my cruise clients good prospects?
Yes! Less than 10% are first-time cruisers, so do look at your database of customers who have cruised in the past. Sixty-two percent are luxury cruisers, while 54% have sailed on river vessels – and 30% have cruised on megaships, which is significantly higher than other respondents.
3. Does age matter?
Boomers (ages 55 to 73) and Generation X (ages 39 to 54) were cited by 80% of top sellers as very likely to take an expedition cruise among their lists of customers who haven’t yet.
4. What’s the best way to promote expedition cruises?
Jumping in and selling is probably the best way. Referrals from existing clients (54%) are the best ways to generate qualified leads, say the high-performing advisors with 50% turning towards their own email lists. Marketing programs from their travel advisor consortia (46%) were also effective, they said.
5. Are there any other ways I should promote that I sell expedition cruises?
Top sellers said make sure to list yourself as a seller of expedition cruises on both your agency and consortia websites.
6. What’s the best way to get started?
Learn the players and figure out where they go, and how they are different, say the pros, although it may be easier said than done. “There are so many great suppliers. Once you know what they offer and what your clients want, there are lots of options,” one advisor told us. Dedicate yourself to taking fam trips – 88% say this is the best way to get your feet wet. But don’t worry, there’s so much ground to cover that even 48% of this elite group say they wish they had more personal experience.
7. Are there any pitfalls to be aware of?
Nearly one-third of top sellers said “lack of inventory for the times and places my clients want to go” is a key obstacle; and several advisors told us clients are surprised how far they need to book in advance to secure space on the most desirable trips.