NEIL DUNCAN, general manager, product, planning and marketing, Thomson Cruises.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU WORKED IN YOUR CURRENT JOB AND WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THE ROLE?
A: I’ve been in my current role for five years, and in the cruise industry since 2002. I was attracted to the role because of the wide scope – one minute I can be signing off a press release or newspaper ad. The next minute I am working through ship itinerary proposals for the next five years.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT THE CRUISE INDUSTRY?
A: The buzz the industry has created in the travel market and the way it is now seen as a holiday option for all customer demographics. It is an exciting industry to work in as it still has huge potential to grow further.
HOW IS YOUR COMPANY DIFFERENT TO OTHER CRUISE LINES?
A: Thomson Cruises is unique within the UK cruise industry as we are part of a tour operator that owns an airline, hotels and travel agents. This allows us to control the end-to-end customer experience – from booking all the way through to the customer’s holiday on the ship. Being part of a large tour operator gives us the opportunity to maximise customer choice.
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB OVER NEXT TWELVE MONTHS?
A: The launch of TUI Discovery 2 and expanding our destination portfolio.
HOW HAS THE CRUISE MARKET CHANGED IN THE LAST 10 YEARS?
A: The industry has been very proactive in trying to attract ‘new to cruise’ and improve repeat levels for existing customers. Also, our customers are much more demanding than 10 years ago so we have had to diversify our offering to suit all markets. For example, the range of dining and facilities on board cruise ships has expanded massively, with options for customers hugely improved and varied from 10 years ago.
WHAT IS THE TARGET MARKET OF YOUR COMPANY?
A: Our cruises attract a very broad market and as a result our average cruiser is younger than the industry average. I would say the key market is 35-65-year-old couples and families.
HOW MUCH PERCENTAGE OF GROWTH ARE YOU TARGETING FROM UK & IRELAND CUSTOMERS EACH YEAR?
A: The introduction of TUI Discovery 2 will see double-digit growth for the UK and Ireland markets for 2017.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACING CRUISE SALES?
A: The biggest challenge generally is attracting ‘new to cruise’. Penetration in the UK is still relatively low compared to other developed nations like the US and Germany. We need to break the myths about cruising that currently mean we are not even a consideration for many. Our Cruise and Stay product is a fantastic opportunity for agents to attract these customers. It’s the best of both worlds: new-to-cruise customers can still have their week’s holiday on land but can also ‘dip their toe on the water’ with a week on board. I guarantee that once they try it there will be no turning back.
HOW DOES THE COMPANY WORK WITH THE TRAVEL TRADE?
A: We obviously have our own travel agents that are key to our sales channels. We also work closely with other trade partners to ensure they know our latest product and offers. For the Discovery launch back in June we hosted over 650 agents on board over the three days, including both our own retail shop teams and a number of our key trade partner staff.
WHY SHOULD AGENTS SELL CRUISE RATHER THAN A LAND HOLIDAY?
A: Cruises are incredible value for money, especially considering the demand for all-inclusive trips and that customers want to budget before they travel. Also, clients unpack only once but they experience a range of destinations. Cruise enjoys strong retention with a high percentage of cruise customers still choosing to book through an agent.
TOP THREE SALES TIPS FOR TRAVEL AGENTS SELLING CRUISE
1 – Know your stuff – and seize every opportunity ou have to do ship visits. Cruise customers expect you to know which ships best suit their needs.
2 – Be confident in explaining the key differences between land holidays and cruises, especially what’s included in the cost of a cruise.
3 – Destination is the number one reason for booking a cruise. Know the USPs/tour options of the of call to bring this to life for customers.