Wave Awards 2022 roundtable interview

Wave Awards 2022 roundtable: ‘It makes you realise what you do is important’

Winners at the Wave Awards 2022 highlight what their respective victories meant to them and explain what’s to come this year and beyond.

What did winning a Wave Award mean to you?

Royal Caribbean head of UK sales Torey Kings-Hodkin

We have won several Wave Awards in the past but it never stops meaning as much as it does. The excitement when your name is read out never goes away – it gives you renewed energy and makes you realise that what you do is important.

Princess Cruises UK & Europe sales director Nick Hughes

It is testament to the team and all the hard work that goes into our business, and keeps you going to try to win more next time.

Wave Awards 2022, Royal Caribbean
Victory for Royal Caribbean

Riviera Travel channel director Stuart Milan

For the Riviera team as a whole, we put so much effort into our product, so it’s more validation for that. In my eyes, the more validation points we can give to customers leads to an increase in bookings.

Uniworld UK & Europe MD Chris Townson

We often get amazing feedback, but to get something like a Wave Award, from an expert judging panel, is fantastic. It is the Oscars of the cruise industry and it cements our place in the sector.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises senior sales director Paul Beale

To be recognised for what we do and the effort and dedication that goes into our product, is just fantastic.

Virgin Voyages vice-president of sales Shane Riley

It was incredible to pick up two awards, for Best for Cuisine and Best New Ship Launch. It is a well established process to select the winners, [so it’s great] having the validation for the team. We are eager to win more in the future.

Virgin Voyages
Virgin Voyages will deliver an “enhanced entertainment programme”

What trends are you seeing at present?

Torey Kings-Hodkin

We saw something build in 2022, which is that suites are selling fast, with more people taking balconies and suites than pre pandemic. Guests are spending more, such as on spa experiences, dining and so on.

The big news for us is Icon of the Seas coming next year. It will be the largest cruise ship in the world but so much more than a big ship.

It will feature the new Crown’s Edge, which is part skywalk, part ropes course. Then there’s Utopia of the Seas (also in 2024).

Nick Hughes

We are seeing that interest in Japan has really gathered pace, with bucket-list areas hitting the spot. We’re in a really good position for 2023 and want to follow this through for 2024.

We have our 16th ship coming next year and we are still pushing ahead with the MedallionClass, delivering more improvements.

We also have the new 360 concept, a fully immersive experience bringing different destinations to life through the senses.

Stuart Milan

Everyone is booking top down. For us, the Danube is still the main new-to-river cruise destination, while the Douro is for the more experienced cruiser.

Festive cruises are also big for us. This year’s December cruises show a much younger audience than our usual demographic – 10-15 years younger.

Chris Townson

There has been a continuation of strong sales. [Our guests] want to travel in style, so we’re selling top cabins first and booking multiple cruises.

Consumers are saying ‘we want to do this properly’. Upselling is coming through, as is long haul and a combination of tours. [Moving forward] we continue to develop our Generations programmes and multi-gen is an expanding opportunity.

Paul Beale

Long haul has been great for us and we’re excited to be going back to Japan. As for the Caribbean, we’ve sold a huge amount, and the eastern Mediterranean always sells the best for us.

It’s about getting back to sea again, enjoying travelling, seeing a country fully with unrivalled shore excursions. Our new ship Seven Seas Grandeur is coming in November this year, and excitingly we have a collaboration with Fabergé, for a Fabergé egg to be a permanent exhibition on the ship.

Shane Riley

People are spending more on their holidays, booking back-to-back. Our average age is getting lower and lower, so we’re attracting a younger demographic.

Also, the new-to-cruise audience is expanding because people don’t consider us a cruise product – it’s a voyage product.

We have two new ships coming, however for us it is less about the ships themselves and more about software. We have an enhanced entertainment programme and will be taking dining to the next level and raising the bar again.

How can agents be successful this year?

Torey Kings-Hodkin

Use the resources that are out there. We are doubling the amount of ship visits for 2023, as we think it is really important for the trade to experience the product.

Be bold with knowledge and go out there and provide incredible service.

Princess Cruises, Nick Hughes
Princess Cruises’ Nick Hughes

Nick Hughes

It’s also about training new agents who do not have the knowledge [of all the products]. Our ship visits will commence from May to October, and we hope to get approximately 300 agents on board.

Stuart Milan

Every line has great, accessible trade sales teams, so it shouldn’t be a one-way street – agents can come to us at all times and we will help.

Chris Townson

We really try to make agents’ jobs as easy as possible. If a travel agent is uneasy, just ring us and we will help and provide an immediate response. We are there to support our partners.

Paul Beale

Add value rather than discount. We want agents to retain money and they can do that by keeping that price. We are proud to be in the top price bracket. If they can add value through upgrades, that is fabulous.

Shane Riley

You win on price, you lose on price. Retain the margin and add value to your service and to your clients. Be that concierge service for them. And, as an industry expert you are giving them a reason to come back to you.

For the full list of winners from the Wave Awards 2022 and more information about the 2023 event, go to the official Wave Awards website

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