There’s no doubt selling travel is a tough job. Agents need to know the customer, the product, understand pricing and that’s just the tip of it.
But when it comes to selling cruise – an industry that is growing at a tremendous rate – the job is a little tougher.
Every week cruise lines are introducing something new, whether it’s a new ship, new itineraries or sailing to new destinations.
And while it may seem tough to conquer, there’s plenty of opportunity for Australian agents to succeed in the sector.
Brett Jardine, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasia General Manager convinced three CLIA Awards finalists and one winner at Cruise3sixty last week to reveal their secrets to success and help up and coming cruise agents get to the top.
Try something new
Peter Williams, Phil Hoffman Travel CEO said: a few years back we noticed a trend amongst cruisers for more flexibility and more control.
So we came up with this concept where our clients would meet our hosts onboard a cruise.
We didn’t know how this would go because our existing escorted programs sees us holding travellers hands from Australia and take them throughout the whole journey until they’ve returned home.
This case was different because we were meeting them onboard. And that gave flexibility on what they did pre and post.
And this works because the cruise (particularly with river cruising) is just a component of the vacation. Whereas some time ago it was the whole vacation.
So that’s why we’ve started with the hosted program and it has grown year-on-year and been very successful.
Don’t forget the power of customer service + databases
Carole Smethurst, Bicton Travel MD said: I opened my business in 1988 with the focus on cruising and I also wanted to focus on customer service and build a client base.
So, I invested in a database, which at the time was an index book from Big W.
I was on my own with a junior and it was easy to start it because every single person that walked into that office went into the database.
About three years later I invested in a computer program and it was costing about $200 a month at the time. That’s really proved to be the engine of my business. Everything comes from that database.
We sent edms from it, we do direct mail outs from it. I would say 70 percent of the business would be written from it.
We all know about our email box, you get hundreds of emails a day and you don’t open it unless its relevant.
It’s the same with your clients, if you send them something they’re not interested in they’ll just delete it.
So sending out the right edms with product you know your client would be interested in is important.
We also host evenings when we invite people with an interest in a particular cruise line and have a product update session.
Become a cruise specialist
Brett Dann, Hunter Travel Group MD said: In the last five years serving cruise has been a large part of our success.
We spent a lot of time working with industry partners, not only in Australia but also the US and UK to study what was happening there.
So, we decided one of the things we would do is open a cruise specialist agency.
Because specialising was what was happening the US in particular.
We wanted to do it differently too and open it in a major shopping centre, which isn’t an easy move because they have no appetite to entertain a new brand.
We spent a fair bit of time convincing Westfields and eventually they got on board.
We also wanted our stores to be different, so we removed all brochures and we did this to train staff and customers that it’s not just about the brochure. It’s about talking to the staff.
We’ve also consciously decided to avoid major cities and open in destinations where we believe we are the specialists. Now 31 percent of our business is cruise related.
Meet new people and create new experiences
Hilary Weir, Dream Maker Travel MD said: In 2006, I was out on my own without a partner and I had to learn the numbers side of the business. So I was put in the business camp for numbers to learn what happens behind the scene and part of that was a dinner at the Versace Hotel and that was being hosted by cricketer Ian Healy.
And we got to speaking and he was the funniest guy. I was so impressed with the way he owned the room that I thought he would be great to host a tour.
My accountant knew him and introduced us and I pitched him the idea and he was like that sounds really good.
So we exchanged numbers and I called him the next day. We organised a meeting within 24 hours and had a chat and eventually came up with a plan to book a chartered river cruise with Ian as the host.
That was a sole charter – it’s very risky, but two years later I’ve booked three charters. It’s hard work but working with fantastic people makes it easier.
Train, train, train
Peter: I often say if we’re in the general leisure market and you send someone to Europe and put them in the wrong hotel they’ll probably come back and have a chat. But if you put them on the wrong cruise then they’ll probably come back angry. You really have to be careful when it comes to cruise. I often say it’s the right destination, with the right ship and the right person and you’ve got a client for life. And that’s where training is critical.
Carole: You’ve got to do the training, you’re all learning something everyday. We have almost weekly training sessions over lunch where we bring in the cruise lines and three staff go in at a time and they learn the product while they eat.
Have any tips of your own? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
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