Travel agents should focus on explaining the key features and highlights of destinations to attract new-to-cruise guests.
Those words, from Seabourn UK & Europe VP Lynn Narraway, came at the CLIA Porto Destination Showcase event.
“Destination is one of the main reasons guests book a cruise,” she said. “It’s not just about where they go, but also the experiences they have in a destination. Often these are exclusive, behind-the-scenes activities.”
Narraway also highlighted how recent research shows that 68 per cent of UK cruisers book a pre cruise stay, with 58 per cent opting for a post cruise extension.
“Know your clients’ bucket-list wishlists and build a calendar of events that may tempt them. All cruise lines are committed to supporting destinations and leaving a positive impact.”
Focusing more specifically on luxury clients, Narraway pinpointed how they are “destination focused… that’s a good way to bring new to cruise in”.
She continued: “Look at the working wealthy segment– they have the income but not necessarily the time. So, how do you attract them? By focusing on the destination.”
The power of destinations
Training and development expert Debbee Dale was keen to emphasise the “power of destination”, adding: “The where is the most important part of choosing a holiday.”
And, speaking directly to agents, she said: “Speak less, listen more. Be present in the moment – let clients talk about the destinations they want to visit and be in their moment. Then mention a cruise to get them there.”
The need for booking earlier was also highlighted. Across all cruise segments – whether it be ocean, river, expedition, luxury and so on – demand is increasing.
That desire from clients to visit their dream destination is leading cruise lines to put itineraries out earlier than ever before.
“People are looking further ahead and are often booking more than one cruise at a time,” said Scenic Group sales manager Lewis Quigley, while Michelle Daniels, UK & Europe commercial director of Nicko Cruises’ general sales agent Light Blue Travel, spoke of the growing popularity of the Douro river, which has “really come into its own in the last two years.”
Uniworld’s Lee Evanson also mentioned the rise in demand for destinations such as Asia, which is “back in a big way”. The key is for clients to have “confidence in going long haul”.
On a more industry-wide outlook, the future looks bright for cruise, said CLIA UK & Ireland MD Andy Harmer.
Stats show 72 per cent of non-cruisers are now ready to book a cruise – “that’s the highest it has ever been”, Harmer explained, adding: “2023 could be our biggest year yet”.
Next year, there will be 300 ocean ships operating worldwide, while over the next five years £44bn will be invested in new ships, giving clients a more varied choice of ship size and style.