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Q&A with Ben Bouldin, director of sales, UK & Ireland, Royal Caribbean International

Ben Bouldin

How long have you worked in your current job and what attracted you to the role?

I’ve been director of sales UK & Ireland at Royal Caribbean for just over two years now and in large part, it was my love for travel that initially drew me to the role. I’ve been able to take the skills from 17 years in FMCG and apply them to a completely different – and incredibly dynamic – industry, working for undoubtedly the leader in the category.

What do you like best about the cruise industry?

One of the most exciting aspects of the cruise industry is the ambition of those that work within it. We are very passionate about making cruise holidays the most popular choice for holidaymakers through investment in innovation and by spotlighting the amazing experiences that guests can have on a Royal Caribbean holiday.
The sheer breadth and scale of the innovation in the cruise sector is also staggering.

How is your company different to other cruise lines?

At Royal Caribbean, everything we do is about offering our guests experiences that will blow them away and give them something to brag about.
As such, we are the pioneers of many firsts at sea. Whether it’s wowing guests with our robotic bartenders, surprising them with a 30-foot giraffe or thrilling them with breath-taking destinations, we offer a playground of incredible experiences on 23 of the world’s most innovative and spectacular ships.

How has the cruise market changed in the last 10 years?

You don’t have to look back ten years to see how fast the market is evolving – I can see large changes within the last two and a half years. Cruise lines are no longer confined to a category of their own. We are talking to a broader range of holidaymakers to compete against land-based holidays. This is because of the ever-expanding range of cruise holidays now on offer.

What is the target market of your company?

We believe a Royal Caribbean cruise is an incredible way to see the world at any age – with multiple destinations and an adventure playground of experiences both off and on board – so our target market spans the generations.

How much percentage of growth are you targeting from UK & Ireland customers each year?

We have a very healthy growth curve and the level of aspiration and appetite within the UK business is high. We’ve already had a strong start to 2016 with the launch of our WAVE campaign under our new positioning ‘Where Extraordinary Happens’ and our new ship launches will offer us the opportunity to further grow sales while continuing to work with our trade partners to attract new holidaymakers.

What is the biggest challenge facing cruise sales?

With over 30 million holidays taken in the UK and just 1.6 million cruisers currently, undoubtedly the biggest challenge – but also the biggest opportunity – is widening the appeal and attracting the new to cruise audience.

How does the company work with the travel trade?

The trade are critical to our mission of appealing to a wider audience.
Our e-learning programme – Cruising for Excellence (CFE) – provides agents with a realistic onboard experience to better equip them to sell to all types of holidaymakers. And our reward and recognition programme – Club Royal – is open to all agents achieving ‘Captain’ status on Cruising for Excellence. We have seen this go from strength to strength, hitting 8,000 members last year.

Why should agents sell cruise rather than a land holiday?

I strongly believe that cruise gives people the benefits of a land-based holiday, but with so much more to offer. The scope of facilities on board our ships, such as world-class dining and entertainment, exceed those you’d get on land – and where else do you get the opportunity to wake up in a new city or even country each day?

What should agents focus on when selling cruise – price, experience, etc?

All agents have their own tactics for selling cruises but my top tips are:
✱ To have enough knowledge to highlight the differences between cruise holidays, in order to highlight how there is a cruise to suit all tastes and budgets.
✱ Take time to work out what is important to your customer. Is it all about the destinations? Is the food or entertainment a key selling point? Are they looking for a relaxing holiday or something a bit more active?
✱ Spotlight the value of a cruise – the fact that you can experience multiple destinations in one trip combined with an incredible array of adventures on board too.
✱ Don’t wait to be asked for a cruise. It may not be on people’s immediate shortlist but cruise holidays should be included in the same conversations as land based all-inclusive resorts.

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