Azamara is ready to take its trade support and agent relationships to the next level. The line’s head of trade sales UK Stuart Pearce speaks to Gary Peters.
Rewind to October last year. For those at Azamara, it was a significant time, as the line announced it had restructured its UK sales team.
As part of the changes, David Duff, formerly the line’s international commercial director, became UK managing director, while Stuart Pearce took on the responsibility of managing the UK sales strategy as head of trade sales UK.
In addition, Moira Gregson joined as business development manager (BDM) in late 2022, followed earlier this year by Adam Morris, again as a BDM.
“It puts us in a position moving forward to support growth and better serve our trade partners,” Pearce tells Cruise Trade News.
Azamara ‘stepping up to the mark’
With the benefit of hindsight, the changes in the UK team could not have come at a better time for Azamara.
Pearce says the line has had an “amazing” wave season, with trade sales accounting for the “majority of UK bookings”.
Pearce continues: “We’ve had our best wave here in the UK and that is absolutely thanks to our trade partners. They supported us through the pause and then bouncing back have continued to do the same.
“Cruise represents a great value proposition in the market, and especially with Azamara being an inclusive cruise line, with longer days in ports, more overnights and the destination immersion that we offer.”
Something that has struck Pearce is the change in the selling process and “also the process that we use with our travel partners”.
He says: “Technology has played a huge part – we can use technology and have a virtual chat.
“Nothing will replace face-to-face; agents tell us that they still love to speak to their guests and some want to walk into a travel agency, sit in front of their favourite travel agent and have that personal experience.”
He continues: “Our travel partners are asking us to provide more digital content and we’ve stepped up to the mark on that.
“We’ve just launched our new trade portal – Azamara Connect – which incorporates all of those digital assets. We also have a booking tool to support our trade partners further in making a sale.”
On the question of how he and his colleagues will make Azamara Connect the go-to portal for agents, Pearce explains: “We work around the travel partner, so rather than having a plan where it’s our thought process, we think about agents’ needs first.
“We like to make sure it’s fun – I always think the more you keep it fun, the more you’ll be at the forefront.”
Immersion is paramount
Something else that has long kept Azamara in agents’ minds is its focus on destination immersion.
With a strong emphasis on overnight stays and what it terms country intensive voyages, getting under the skin of a destination is very much the Azamara way.
“It’s our key differentiator,” says Pearce. “Longer days, more overnights, country intensive voyages – they have all been winners for us.
“On country intensives, guests are sailing to one country and the itinerary intensifies the ports, meaning guests can see that country to its fullest.”
The on-board offering was also boosted with the arrival of Azamara Onward – the line’s fourth ship in the fleet – which was christened in May 2022 in Monte Carlo.
Pearce explains: “Azamara Onward created huge excitement for us and the ship has performed very well, especially in the UK.
“She’s loved by our guests, both those loyal to Azamara and also new to brand.
“Bringing in a fourth ship has given us the opportunity to offer more availability for those who hadn’t considered an Azamara cruise in the past.”