Q&A with Simonne Fairbanks

Simonne Fairbanks

Simonne Fairbanks is the chief operating officer for cruisingexcursions.com

HOW LONG HAVE YOU WORKED IN YOUR CURRENT JOB AND WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THE ROLE?
I’ve been with cruisingexcursions.com since start-up in 2011. I took a risk as the concept of selling excursions online, independent of the cruise line, was virtually non-existent then – but it was such an innovative model I couldn’t resist! Our innovation has been in securing and building an overseas infrastructure, strong supplier relationships, and a wealth of tour guides with multilingual product range, all wrapped up in a real price value proposition. We started with just 240 European excursions at 60 Med ports. This year we are up to around 12,000 excursions at more than 700 ports worldwide. Contracting is my area of expertise, so I’ve been very busy!

WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT THE CRUISE INDUSTRY?
What isn’t there to like! I now wouldn’t want to work in any other travel area – there is something new to discover every day. The growth in the cruise industry shows no sign of abating and it’s an upbeat. exciting environment to work in. Iparticularlylikeworkingwiththe cruise specialist travel agents – they’re so passionate and enthusiastic about all things cruising and I never fail to be impressed by their knowledge.

WHAT MAKES CRUISINGEXCURSIONS. COM DIFFERENT?
We are the UK’s leading independent shore excursion provider; we try and offer a good range of excursions at an affordable price. We have transparent pricing – booking through an agent or direct the price is the same – and we look after agents and pay great commission!

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO MOST OVER THE NEXT 12 MONTHS?
We have to keep on our toes – since 2001 nine or more new cruise ships have been built every year and 2018 is no exception. We are constantly expanding and tweaking our product range. In the next year or so I’m looking forward to expanding our portfolio of shore excursions at ports of call in the Asia Pacific region.

HOW DO YOU WORK WITH THE TRADE?
Agents embraced our commissionable products and now 99 per cent of UK agents are signed up to sell the excursions, with an average sale price of £300pp – giving around £48pp in valuable commission! For some companies we produce hard copy brochures and we can also offer white label websites.

As well as commission we have a generous agents’ loyalty reward scheme – Port Points – with bookings earning points that can be redeemed for gifts. We also regularly run agent incentives and have a dedicated agent training manager.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR TYPICAL CUSTOMER?
Our typical customer is getting younger as cruise ships adapt their features to attract new generations, and cruising has become more affordable as competition grows; value-savvy cruisers like to have the time to browse and compare excursions at leisure before buying. Many of our customers know exactly what they want because they are repeat cruisers; they are experts. Then we have the enthusiastic first-time cruisers, who like to gather as much information as possible so they have a great experience on their firstcruise.

IF AGENTS SELL ONLY ONE EXCURSION THIS YEAR WHAT SHOULD IT BE?
I would highly recommend the St Petersburg tours. Nobody can walk off ship and do their own thing at this port; you have to reserve a tour with either the cruise line or an independent company, such as Cruising Excursions. The destination is absolutely breathtaking and not to be missed!

 

TOP THREE TIPS FOR AGENTS SELLING EXCURSIONS

1 Follow up with your customers prior to their cruise, research excursions to suggest and give tailor-made service with ideas for each port.

2 If you’ve booked a first-time cruiser keep it simple and traditional. A repeat cruiser may be ready for something a bit different. especially if they’ve been to the destination before.

3 If you’re going on a cruise fam trip, test a few excursions out yourself so you know what you’re selling -we offer complimentary excursions to agents.

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