APT head of sales Jessica Shelton-Agar

APT sales boss Jessica Shelton-Agar: ‘Hold tight, the future is bright’

APT UK head of sales Jessica Shelton-Agar says travel agents are in “the ideal position to build and restore confidence” in the cruise sector, as the industry looks to 2021.

Usually at this time of year diaries would be booked up with award ceremonies and parties. This year may look a little different, as we dress up for a video ‘party’ instead, but while the big celebrations are on hold, it’s important to remember that the industry has been taking steps to a recovery.

New health and safety protocols have been introduced on board and CLIA has played a key role in lobbying the government to help build consumer confidence.

The news as I write this is all about a potential new vaccine that is 90 per cent effective and another story stating UK ministers are looking at allowing cruises to resume from January.

We now know to take everything with a pinch of salt, but the green shoots are there and as an industry we must continue to hang on, because when the recovery comes, it will come with a bang.

Stay connected

This year started out on a path to be a record breaking year for trade sales at APT, and this was only possible because of those who support the heart of business – our agent partners. They have been incredible since this all started, working with us to communicate with clients and keep them informed on next steps. We have no doubt that our partners will play a crucial role in the months and years ahead.

As consumer confidence returns, we know that clients will tread carefully, looking at what protections are in place.

Agents are in the ideal position to build and restore confidence, sharing knowledge of the industry, products and new policies – such as our free Covid Flexible Booking Cover, including travel insurance that covers all things Covid-related. This policy has been introduced as an extra protection, empowering agents to secure bookings when clients may be in doubt.

Now is the ideal time for agents to learn about our new policies and offers, and we also urge agents to stay connected with us via our new APT Agent Club platform. Here they can join training sessions, brush up their knowledge of APT River Cruises & Tours and hear about the latest company news, offers and incentives.

We know clients are longing to take their next cruise from our booking patterns. We have seen a significant number of passengers choosing to rebook for 2021 and since we released our 2022 European river cruise itineraries, we have also seen a stream of new bookings coming through.

As confidence builds this momentum is likely to continue – a lesson we’re learning from our colleagues in Melbourne, who have come out of a 112-day lockdown.

Celebrating hard work

All of us in the sales team value the fantastic relationships we have with our agent partners and so many others. It is all part of what makes this industry so wonderful.

I have also come to realise that although video conferencing is the new normal, it will never replace face-to-face communication. What’s more, I had no idea how much I would miss hosting tables and attending events.

In the meantime, excuse me as I change from my active wear to a sparkly frock – it may be a Zoom party but it is Christmas after all. We should all take a moment to celebrate the hard work we have put in this year, to keep the industry alive for a brighter future.

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