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Avalon Waterways’ Janet Parton: Engagement with clients is key

janet parton, avalon waterways, cruise

Avalon Waterways sales and marketing director Janet Parton outlines why her confidence in the future remains strong, and what clients want to know from their travel agent.

There is no escaping the challenges that the global pandemic has brought upon the travel industry, and is of course still imposing.

I’m sure that we are all looking ahead to the future of the industry and it’s vital that we continue to adapt, plan and react, as guidelines continue to change. Together we need to instil confidence and provide reassurance to consumers that cruising hasn’t stopped being a fantastic way to see the world.

At Avalon Waterways we have undertaken a consumer survey of 1,000 guests. From this, two key areas were apparent in the results.

Currently (and unsurprisingly), the top consideration when booking a cruise is health and safety. As cruise line operators, these are hygiene factors for us; they are not USPs. They are an enhancement on the already very stringent protocols and procedures that would have been in place before the pandemic, but it’s important that they are highlighted to provide reassurance.

Agents need to be aware of what lines are doing to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of everyone on board, but must also understand the practical elements of what happens before, and during, a cruise to help alleviate any customer concerns. To this end, CLIA is working on systems and information to share with agents to support these conversations and provide practical tools.

Developing the message

So, what else are customers telling us? They want to hear from their travel agents and holiday providers. They want deals, offers and, as ever, to hear about the must-see destinations and sights.

At Avalon Waterways we have been evolving our messaging from “dreaming” to “doing” and increasing sales messages to consumers – this is what they want.

Agents may find that marketing funds are tight (I don’t know of a travel company that hasn’t had to cut its spending this year), so it’s important to look at free/less expensive methods to engage with consumers.

We are seeing success in social media and by simply engaging with the database of clients. In fact, it can be as simple as sending a letter, perhaps highlighting offers for future travel, all underpinned by stringent health and safety measures. Whatever the method, it’s important to engage, to be proactive and to approach them.

If there is one thing that the past few months have shown me, it’s the industry’s resilience. Times are challenging but we need to work together as travel agents and cruise lines to inspire trust and rebuild. We can do this.

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