How long have you worked in your current job and what attracted you to the role?
Just over three years ago, in 2011 I was appointed managing director of Seabourn and Holland America Line’s new joint office, based at Carnival House in Southampton alongside our sister Carnival UK brands. I previously ran the Holland America Line and Carnival Cruise Lines UK business based from offices in London. One of the most exciting aspects of my new role was to be able to take on the challenge of increasing our trade distribution and sales for luxury operator Seabourn.
What do you like most about the cruise industry?
The buzz, the excitement, and most of all the people! There is such talent, passion and commitment in travel and particularly within the cruise industry. As Chair of CLIA’s Executive Committee, I regularly sit around a table with our direct cruise line competitors, since as members of CLIA we all work together in order to promote and grow cruise. Every year brings new ships, new innovations and new destinations.
How is your company different to other cruise lines?
Holland America Line and Seabourn are very different brands, but the vision of both is to offer the very highest levels of service and customer satisfaction. Perhaps our biggest differentiation is our destinations. Holland America Line really has ships and itineraries in all seven continents, while Seabourn’s 458-guest ships can visit some really out of the way places, as well as many UNESCO designated sites. Have you ever heard of Sir Bani Yas Island in the UAE or Phillip Island in Australia? Well, we are going there.
What are you looking forward to most in your job over the next 12 months?
That’s an easy one to answer as we have two new ships coming in 2016. MS Koningsdam, a brand new “Pinnacle” class of ship for Holland America Line, will debut in April, cruising in the Med and in Northern Europe, while Seabourn Encore arrives in December 2016. We are currently planning our trade campaigns and creating new sales collateral for agents to use in promoting inaugural programmes.
Seabourn attracts the luxury traveller. People who enjoy exclusive resorts and travel in business class are looking for outstanding service – and of course the personal expertise provided by their travel agent. Agents should tell them about Seabourn’s all-inclusive luxury before revealing it’s a cruise.
What is the biggest challenge facing cruise sales?
The inclusivity of cruise holidays mean that they are already excellent value. We need to move away from price led promotions and discounting – and sell the incredible range of experiences on offer.
How does the company work with the travel trade?
We are committed to working in partnership with the travel trade. Our sales team have a close relationship with their accounts and are delighted to assist with any training, webinars, marketing and joint consumer events. We are creating more sales tools and collateral for agents than ever before, and enhancing our excellent online training programmes at www.halacademy. co.uk and www.seabournacademy.co.uk which offer some great tips in selling to premium and luxury clients.
Why should agents sell a cruise holiday rather than a land holiday?
A Just compare the value. Very few land based resorts include fine dining and worldclass entertainment within the cost of the holiday, not to say up to five destinations in one week – and without the chore of repacking! Some cruise itineraries feature up to three days in one port (with overnights onboard) so travellers can enjoy a value city break within the cruise without paying for accommodation and dining in some of the most desirable places in the world, such as Venice, Hong Kong, Sydney or Barcelona. Customers may have different priorities when booking a holiday; however there is a cruise out there for every type of traveller and the challenge is for agents to match the right cruise with the right client. A contented customer will be loyal, recommend to friends via word of mouth – and most importantly will bring you future business. Agents need to complete the excellent online training that cruise lines offer so that they can offer sound product knowledge and expertise to their clients when recommending a cruise holiday.