Michael Steffl, Head of International Sales, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises
HOW LONG HAVE YOU WORKED IN YOUR CURRENT JOB AND WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THE ROLE?
A: My current job was created in January 2013. The challenge of expanding the international sales department and being part of the company’s international strategy were what interested me.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT THE CRUISE INDUSTRY?
A: Cruising is a very exciting and yet relaxing way
to spend a holiday. You pack your suitcase once and are able to visit multiple destinations and countries within a week or so. Cruising with HLC and EUROPA 2 is synonymous with the highest service and food standards. The satisfaction levels we achieve make working with HLC very rewarding.
HOW IS YOUR COMPANY DIFFERENT TO OTHER CRUISE LINES?
A: Hapag-Lloyd Cruises specialises in luxury and expedition cruising. We operate the world’s best-rated luxury cruise ships, EUROPA and EUROPA 2 (according to the Berlitz Cruise Guide). We off er top service and food standards. The ships are of small size and low draught – we are able to call at small, exclusive and remote destinations. Our expedition ships have the highest ice-class for passenger vessels – we off er extensive cruises into the Arctic and Antarctica. We have, for instance, cruised the North East Passage three times now – as the only non-Russian cruise operator. EUROPA 2, our latest fleet addition, with a maximum capacity of 500 guests, sets new standards in the luxury cruise industry. With its unique design and style, EUROPA 2 off ers casual luxury cruising with individuality and fl exibility as its core concept.
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB OVER NEXT TWELVE MONTHS?
A: Looking to increase awareness within the trade of our two new 5-star expedition vessels to launch in 2019, while, of course, maintaining the trade’s interest in our existing ships in the fl eet and developing new sales channels.
WHAT IS THE TARGET MARKET OF YOUR COMPANY?
A: In addition to our core markets – Germany, Austria and Switzerland – we focus now more strongly on North America, UK, Benelux and Australia.
HOW MUCH GROWTH ARE YOU TARGETING FROM UK AND IRELAND CUSTOMERS EACH YEAR?
A: At this point, we have a fleet-wide 7% international passenger share. HLC is looking to grow this number to a two-digit share within the next two to three years.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACING CRUISE SALES?
A: The main challenge is to find and address the suitable target group for our vessels, especially those who are new to cruise. Also the ever-increasing competition, and finding and defining new and unusual cruise destinations. Last but not least, to maintain the highest quality of service.
HOW DOES THE COMPANY WORK WITH THE TRAVEL TRADE?
A: We are supporting all travel agents who are enthusiastic about our product and understand and appreciate that we are still a ‘hidden gem’ in the UK marketplace. Our local sales representative in the UK is happy to assist with organising training, customer events, ship visits, seminar trips and much more.
WHY SHOULD AGENTS SELL CRUISE RATHER THAN A LAND HOLIDAY?
A: It is a value-for-money holiday choice for their clients – and agents can benefit from selling the cruise, the flights and pre and post accommodation. With the EUROPA 2 we offer a luxury ship, which is – as a lot of guests and travel agents confirm to me – a luxury resort at sea. We offer the greatest space-to-passenger ratio in the cruise industry and so can compete with other luxury resorts at sea. EUROPA 2 offers so much space and light – whether in the suites, or public areas, guests never feel confined on board. We have a range of kids’ facilities that attract families who have previously booked land-based luxury resorts with kids’ programmes.
TOP THREE SALES TIPS FOR TRAVEL AGENTS SELLING CRUISE
As well as targeting regular ultra-luxury cruisers, also consider clients who enjoy a 5-star holiday/island-based experience.
EUROPA 2 is ideal for families – apartments, professional care and more. Under 11s travel free when sharing with parents/guardians).
EUROPA 2 is a casually elegant cruise experience. No formal nights, no fixed dining times, gentlemen not required to wear a tie.