Ahead of CLIA Cruise Week (18-23 September), we asked the experts to discuss the trends that are making waves.
Cruise Trade News’ Kaye Holland caught up with CLIA UK & Ireland MD Andy Harmer; P&O Cruises director of sales Ruth Venn; Royal Caribbean head of sales Torey Kings-Hodkin; Princess Cruises sales director for UK and Europe Nick Hughes; Carnival Cruise Line director of international sales Luke Smith; and APT business development manager Koral Lipton, to look back at the year so far and consult their crystal ball for the months ahead.
It’s back to business as usual
Torey Kings-Hodkin: 2023 is done bar a few pockets of availability so it’s all about 2024 and beyond now.
Nick Hughes: We’ve had a very strong 2023 compared to previous years and have increased our ship visit programme as a result.
We have three ship visits left for 2023 and close to 2,500 agents will have experienced our product, tasted our food, and seen our entertainment. That’s super important for us.
Agent engagement is at an all-time high
Nick Hughes: Agent interest is through the roof. Agents want to get to know more about cruise and the various cruise lines. We are also seeing an increase in agent attendance at webinars and at face-to-face events.
Torey Kings-Hodkin: New-to-cruise agents are seeing the fantastic opportunity cruise that represents.
Every ship visit we have put on this year has sold out – and arguably could have done so four times over.
Luke Smith: Our entire ship programme sold out in 24 hours – but the onus is also on the agent. It’s not just a nice day out.
Cruise lines do our bit but agents also have to be accountable. We need them to be speaking to customers and putting the product in front of them, because it’s not the same product it was 15-20 years ago.
Koral Lipton: The demand from agents is there and this has resulted in an expansion of our team to offer agents that extra support.
Andy Harmer: From a trade point of view, there’s never been a better time to sell cruise – the product has never been broader.
Agents are ready to engage and offer cruise to customers who may not have cruised before.
Spotlight on CLIA Cruise Week
Andy Harmer: Cruise Week has been running since 2008. We, as a community, have a much stronger voice if we all work together so the idea is that we use this specific week to talk about cruise as we have never done before.
Our travel agent partners will take part in events, take to social media and work with the media to amplify our voice.
Torey Kings-Hodkin: Cruise Week is something we, at Royal Caribbean, have always supported.
Our sales team will be out and about supporting agents on the front line and we will be launching our biggest-ever agent incentive programme.
Ruth Venn: We’ll be getting out to as many stores and call centres as possible, while also working with homeworkers.
There will be competitions and reward opportunities to earn extra shine points throughout Cruise Week.
Passing on price increases without alienating customers
Torey Kings-Hodkin: It’s easy to make assumptions and what is in your mind isn’t actually what is necessarily in customers’ minds.
Yes, these are challenging times but we are still seeing that people are investing in holidays and prioritising that spend. So be confident and believe in what you are selling.
Luke Smith: If agents have convinced themselves it’s too expensive, that is going to come across to the customer. And actually, the prices are fantastic for what the product is. We all sell amazing holidays that offer incredible value for money.
Andy Harmer: You can look at prices and think it’s expensive but these are some of the most inclusive holidays you can buy.
The actual price of a holiday is what you have paid when you get home. When you consider that everything – from day time activities to meals – is included in the price, then a cruise stands up as incredible value for money.