Q&A with Giles Hawke, CEO, Cosmos Tours & Avalon Waterways

Artistry II

How long have you worked in your current job and what attracted you to the role?

I joined in mid-April and was attracted by several key factors. The Cosmos brand is strong and has good customer recognition, so we have an excellent platform from which to build growth. There is a clear desire by the owners to see the business expand and that promises an exciting few years ahead. The Avalon product is of a high standard and has some differentiating factors which make it ripe for expansion in the UK market.

How is your company different to other cruise lines?

We work with the world’s best ocean and river cruise lines to package the most exciting choice of cruise holidays, from coastal sailing around Croatia and Montenegro to sailing the mighty Mississippi by luxury paddle steamer. With worldwide offices, we can enhance a cruise holiday with city stays, rail journeys or time in a coastal resort, so our customers can get to the heart of a destination with more time for sightseeing.

With Avalon we have a number of USPs which allow us to be very clear about why we are different: our cabins are the largest on European rivers, we have the one and only bed with a river view, and our wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling balcony windows are truly unique.

What are you looking forward to most about your job over the next twelve months?

I’m excited about developing the strategy for growth for the business, about improving relationships with travel agents who want to work with us and about transforming our business to a more digitally enabled one.

How has the cruise market changed in the last 10 years?

The cruise market from the UK remains the fastest growing sector of the travel industry and has undertaken huge growth in the last 10 years. Appealing to a much broader age range and demographic, there is literally an ocean or river cruise for every type of customer and every budget. And in the last five years, the river cruise market has really taken off as people realise it is the most relaxing way to see a destination.  Last year saw 150,300 UK passengers enjoying a river cruise.

What is the target market of your company?

We have a broad market and our product range reflects that with an amazing choice of ocean, coastal cruising and river cruises, but over and above everything we have packaged our cruise holidays with flights and overseas transfers to make them the easiest way for agents to sell to their customers.

What is the biggest challenge facing cruise sales?

There is too much focus on price and not enough on the quality and inclusiveness of the product. We need to get past the price message and focus on the amazing experience and value for money offered.

How does the company work with the travel trade?

As members of CLIA, we offer agents training with webinars, support via roadshows and exhibitions and awareness of our products.  We have hosted over 80 agents on a series of fam trips aboard our Suite Ship, Avalon Tapestry, which has resulted in a mutually beneficial increase in business.  We also have a dedicated sales team providing support.

Why should agents sell cruise rather than a land holiday?

A cruise offers a relaxing way of seeing more of a destination – particularly river cruise as the ship moors up in city and town centres or close to famous sights.  A developing trend is for customers to extend a cruise with a city stay or tour and our product range reflects this demand.  Our expanded choice of ocean, coastal and river cruise packages includes cruise and stay options. There are significant earning opportunities in selling cruises for agents.

Top three sales tips for travel agents selling cruises

  • With such a broad range available now, it’s essential to discuss the type of experience your customers are looking for and what their budget is.
  • You can offer the best ocean or river options with cruise lines to see what the best value will be for them with more included.
  • A number of cruise lines offer pre-bookable excursion packages, city stays or tours and cabin upgrades to enhance your customer’s holiday.

 

 

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