This article is from Travel Market Report’s most recent “2019 Outlook on Ocean Cruises,” a survey of travel advisors designed to determine what is happening on the frontlines of the ocean cruise industry. The full report, which is sponsored by MSC Cruises, is now available here on the TMR website.
We asked advisors to share some success stories about selling ocean cruises, and one word populated many of the answers: Love!
Showing their power to influence, one respondent told us, “They came in for an all-inclusive to Cancun, came out with a balcony cruise to several places in Mexico.”
Another told us, “I have sold all sorts of clients, from honeymooners to multigenerational family groups.”
Personal experience helps. “I love cruising, so selling it is easy for me, as I have done it and had a great experience that I can relate to my clients,” said one advisor.
Sometimes advisors jump in and help. “I have clients who came in to my agency and had booked their $62,000 trip on their own. It was 23 couples and the company had them on three different airlines. They wanted to ensure that does not happen again. I took care of them and it never did.”
Referrals often provide a basis for success. “My group sales escalated when I got out there and networked with small business owners, friends, family and clients who promoted my groups to other people. I would share my own marketing postcards and they would hand them out to others they know,” one agency owner told us.
Another added, “Word of mouth has been my best form of advertising.”
Advisors aren’t afraid to prospect. “If I hear people talking about cruising when I am out and about, I give a tip or two to entice them to call me for their next booking.”
Advisors also say selling cruises to new customers is a winning strategy. “I push for those first-timers to really consider cruising, and the majority of them become lifetime cruisers.”
Cruising also presents a great solution for multigenerational travel. One agent described: “[I had] a client’s parents visiting from Asia and they wanted to see some Canadian cities. I offered a St. Lawrence Seaway and Canadian Atlantic cruise ending in Boston with numerous stops en route. His mother was elderly, and by cruising, they were able to enjoy a family vacation with dining and entertainment experiences onboard and touring a variety of destinations daily, rather than running to catch a train or a plane to the next city. They were able to visit places they had not even thought of. They remarked that they had a fabulous vacation and the itinerary afforded them sights they had never experienced.”
Another respondent said booking groups becomes an incubator for other FIT trips: “Positive group experiences provide me with many loyal clients.”
Social media also helps get the word out. One advisor said, “By posting my own pictures and experiences from a recent cruise, I was able to gain several new clients who wanted to experience the same.”
Advisors also tell us that confidence breeds success, as this advisor explained: “I recently had a customer looking for a cruise to Antarctica. After several days of research and the back-and-forth of presenting information on different lines and cruise tours, I found a great cruise that fit all the parameters: itinerary, length of sailing, number of consecutive days at sea, etc. When the client then asked, ‘So, can you give me a great deal, or should I just go directly through the cruise line?’ I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach! I took a few deep breaths and replied, ‘I am a credentialed agent for this line. I can offer you the same promotions. I hope I have earned your business, and will continue to do so. Customer care is my Number One focus. Please let me know how you’d like to proceed.’ Much to my delight, not only did they book, but decided on an upgraded stateroom! I was successful through knowing the product and deciding to ‘win ‘em over’ with customer service.”
Another agent told us that it’s important to encourage clients to provide referrals. “I went with a group of 30 I organized, and it went off without a hitch. I always tell my clients, if they like my service to not keep me a secret and share my contact info with friends and family.”
One common theme from advisors and owner/managers is how quickly selling ocean cruises can build sales. “We’ve been in business for two years. We have booked an afinity group of 145 guests to sail in November 2019!” Another newbie told us, “I sold over $200,000 in cruise sales in my first year in business.”
Many respondents told us stories about selling groups. “I booked a group of 12 people on a cruise including two VIP suites. The promotion is very easy to sell. Another added, “Our first group was 30, second group was 60, and now in April 2020, we are 80 strong.”
Advisors also told us how important it is to develop new leads, including networking locally in places like the country club. The payoff can be big. “One of my agents recently sold two $185,000 per person round-the-world cruises,” she said.
Agents say their love for ocean cruises can also save the day when something goes wrong. “A client was very disappointed with one cruise line and vowed not to go on cruises again. I found them a great deal, and they booked another cruise, and they are now into a luxury line from a contemporary, and I’ve gotten three referrals.”
Respondents say cruises are often the ideal choice when clients have divergent interests. “I love doing multigenerational family groups. They always have a great time. And when we can get just the perfect rooms for each family within the group, it makes it that much more special for them traveling together. Hearing their stories when they return about all the fun they had while onboard and on shore exploring makes it all worthwhile.”