Unforgettable Travel Group co-founder Graham Carter speaks to Gary Peters about the introduction of a dedicated trade team and why small-ship cruising is on the up.
Back in 2019, Cruise Trade News sat down with Graham Carter to discuss growth plans for the Unforgettable Travel Group, which operates the Unforgettable Travel brand, as well as Unforgettable Croatia – which won Best Specialist Cruise Line at the Wave Awards 2023 – and Unforgettable Greece.
Soon after that, everything came to a halt due to the pandemic. However, four years on from that chat, the group is once again primed to take advantage of the growing demand for small-ship cruises that focus on adventure and yacht-like experiences.
Raising awareness of the Unforgettable family
Front and centre of the company’s future is a determination to work more closely with travel agents, following an increase in trade revenue to £3.6m.
In March this year, it created a dedicated trade team – headed up by Pietro Molica Lazzaro who has been with the firm for four years, most recently as senior European travel specialist – and a new agent portal.
The agent portal will offer agents access to exclusive offers, social media and digital marketing assets, as well as opportunities to register for fam trips.
At the time, Lazzaro said: “Our aim is to build a strong and happy community of travel agents because of the personalised service we can offer them and the fantastic product available to our mutual guests.”
A key reason for the trade team is a desire to be proactive and less reactive, explains Unforgettable Travel Group co-founder Graham Carter.
“We’ve had agents contacting us asking about the product, so we’ve always been a bit reactive because we haven’t had it all in place. The new team is an opportunity for us to raise awareness and bring a different product to the market.
“There’s a lot of education that needs to be done. The big cruise companies are really good at training agents and giving them materials.
“We’re still relatively unknown, so from our perspective, it’s a lot of training and education that we need to be doing. [The portal] is the first step and once we’ve got that buy-in from agents, they can try the product first hand, understand what it is like and explain to their clients why they should book with Unforgettable.”
Moving forward, Carter says there is a possibility of having people on the road in business development manager type positions. “Interestingly, it wasn’t part of the plan, but it’s something which we are considering now,” he explains.
“It’s a lot easier when you need to do training and you need to be face-to-face with someone. We want to be front of mind [for agents], so that is something we’re looking at investing in. We’re not a something for everybody-style cruise company; our price points are fairly high. We’ll be looking to work with agents who are already selling [other higher-end brands].”
The appeal for agents, believes Carter, is the opportunity to make the most of the desire for small-ship cruising that provides a more intimate experience, away from thousands of other guests.
He elaborates: “People are looking at cruise but many don’t want to do it on a 4,000-passenger ship, for example. They are keen on the yacht experience, which is a lot smaller and intimate. With us, they still get to see the popular ports, like Split, but also smaller ones.”
And so, as demand increases – the company is at 99.3 per cent in terms of capacity sold for this year, at the time of writing – there is a realisation that similarly Unforgettable as a whole will need to grow. “What’s next? Expanding our fleet for sure,” says Carter.
“We also need to come up with new routes. I think it’s going to be a balance from our side, of making sure we’ve got enough departures to blow guests’ minds.”