5 Sales Tips for Cruise Selling Success

While there’s no magic elixir to guarantee success selling cruises (or any travel product), there are a number of proven tactics that can propel travel advisors in the right direction.

Client qualification, planning for the future, and staying engaged with clients were some of the tips and tricks that cruise executives shared with attendees at Travel Market Report’s Travel Market Place West conference, held in Vancouver earlier this month.

(Toronto-area advisors, Travel Market Place East is just around the corner, June 22-23. Get your ticket now.)

Qualify Your Clients for the Win
One of the main requirements for being a successful seller of cruises is to match the right product to the right client, panelists emphasized.  

“Every cruise line that you sell has the right customer,” Derek Lloyd, vice president of sales for Norwegian Cruise Line, said. “You need to make sure that you’re putting the right customer on the right cruise. And that starts with knowing the differences between the products themselves. Every single one of us delivers a slightly different experience.”

Justin French, regional vice president, Canada/Western US, for Carnival Cruise Line, echoed Lloyd but added that advisors need to keep their assumptions to themselves. “The most important thing is making sure that you are selling the product through their eyes and not through yours,” said French. “It’s what they’re looking for and what they’re asking to do… mate the right person to the right product and you cannot lose. It’s a guaranteed win/win/win for you for many years to come.”

Qualifying clients is as important for the luxury cruise lines as it is for the mainstream lines. You can’t assume that just because someone has money they want a small luxury cruise, said Beverley Vickers, director of sales and marketing, Canada for Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

“You can have the wealthiest guy in Canada who happens to love Go-Karts and going on roller coasters.” He’d be better off on Norwegian or Carnival than Regent Seven Seas.

“It’s really important that you ask the questions and understand the customer’s desires and wants, and where they see themselves,” she added.

Create a Long-Term Vacation Plan
Panelists also talked about the importance of creating long-term vacation plans with their clients, as a means of ensuring future business.

“Don’t only know what the customer’s next trip is,” said Alan Brooks, director of market sales for Canada at Celebrity Cruises. “Know what their next trip is and the trip after that and the trip after that… have a five year plan at a minimum for your client.”

Creating these longer-term plans requires getting to know your clients on a deeper level, the panelists said.

The easiest path to creating long term plans is built around milestones.

“It’s the perfect place to start because you know people tend to spend a little more money,” Vickers said.

Ask thoughtful questions, Lloyd added. Where do you dream of going? If you could go one place in the world, where would you go? As a kid, where did you picture yourself traveling to?

Then layer in questions about their interests. Do they love history or culinary experiences?

With those answers you can tailor your suggestions for next year’s travel or the year after. For instance, if they like history, you can suggest a European river cruise, which is full of history and castles, Lloyd said.  

“Maybe there’s a big anniversary coming up and that might be the year they splurge,” Brooks said, perhaps on something like a bucket list trip to the Galapagos.

“Know what is on the horizon,” he added, “because that way, you’re in a position of picking up the phone and saying ‘I know you just traveled three months ago and you’re not ready to go quite yet, but I wanted to let you know I saw this good deal on this thing that you’ve been talking about, maybe for 2024.’”

It’s this personal level of service, Brooks said, that separates travel advisors form OTAs or DIY booking tools. “That’s your value.”

Engagement Is Key
Related to the above is the need to stay engaged with your clients. You can’t know what your clients dream about if you’re not having conversations with them.

“The ones that are reaping the rewards [of the travel resurgence] are the ones that stayed engaged and present,” said French.

If that also means being active on social media or starting a podcast, so be it, he said.

Carla Brake, director of business development at the Globus family of brands, which includes Avalon Waterways, and NCL’s Lloyd both agreed that being present on social media is important, especially in terms of sharing your own travel. 

“Now is the time to get out there, showcase that travel is back. Showcase that you’re willing to travel and share it on social media,” Brake said.

Lloyd echoed the sentiment. “You need to start traveling yourself. You need to be posting. You need to be showing people that travel is back and it’s back with a vengeance. You need to be inspiring them with destinations, not just what’s the next deal on the table.”

Be Proactive…
Engagement takes proactivity. You can’t wait for clients to reach out to you.

“You cannot wait for the customer to call you,” Brooks told attendees. “People tend to buy from the last person they spoke to. And, while you are very aware that you sell travel, they sometimes forget. Pick up the phone, call them, email them.”

“One of the big things is just suggesting a river cruise to someone,” said Brake. “They only know what they know… I think your client will go anywhere that you tell them to go. They really rely on your expertise. Sometimes it’s just opening that conversation.”

… And Strategic
Who you choose to focus your attention on also matters, Vickers said, speaking of advisors she’s seen having the most success.

“They realize they have to be more strategic about who they sell and they’re trying to narrow down the sales funnel. They’re not trying to be everything to everybody… they’re deciding that they consciously want to move their clients up.”

While she agreed that it’s tempting to grab whatever business you can when the going gets tough, she said staying intentional is better in the long run.

“Turn away business, fire clients that aren’t going to get you where you want to be.”

That also means putting the suppliers you want to work with in front of your clients, even if they’re not quite ready for it yet.

“Whether the client knows it or not, they [the advisors] have decided that Regent should be on their radar and they’re going to keep it in front of them until they realize it themselves.”

Multi-Gen Groups
Carnival’s French also recommended advisors focus on multi-gen travel for the moment.

“People have been locked in their homes looking at their grandparents on Zoom for the last two years. Now they’re all coming together. It’s a great opportunity to plant the seed of a multi-gen [cruise] where there’s something for everybody on board.”

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12 Amazing Summer Travel Deals — Including Last-minute Memorial Day Sales

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How to actually get cheap flights from airline sales

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We’ve all seen them in our inbox: Southwest fares for $49! JetBlue’s $44 flights! London on United for 22,000 points! But if you’ve struggled to actually get a fare that low, you’re not alone. While advertised airfare sales sound enticing, it can feel impossible to take advantage of them.

“I would say there’s generally a lot of smoke, not a lot of fire when it comes to advertised airline sales,” said Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights. With a slew of terms and conditions, the deals tend to be restrictive and can be less advantageous for travelers than they appear. But they can influence other fares, and occasionally you might even find that golden plane ticket.

We spoke to travel experts about how to navigate airline sales and promotions, and how to increase your chances of finding a deal no matter what.

Zach Griff, senior reporter at the Points Guy, said splashy sales with language like “fares as low as X dollars,” primarily serve to draw travelers to an airline’s website. “That is really there largely to generate marketing buzz, buzz among the press,” he said.

When customers visit those sites, Griff said, the deals are only as good as the asterisk denoting their terms and conditions. “You’ll see that there are lots of exclusions, dates of travel, book-by dates and travel-by dates,” he said.

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Advertised sales also tend to feature certain types of routes. “The cheapest fares that are available typically in an advertised sale tend to almost always be short-haul flights that are not terribly expensive to begin with,” Keyes said, such as New York to Boston or Los Angeles to San Francisco. “They can very cleverly lump in a cheap fare on those routes with more expensive fares on other routes and they can say, you know, ‘It starts at $49.’”

Keyes added that airlines often only have a select number of seats available at the price used in an advertisement. With so many limitations, he said, only a small percentage of people looking at flights during a given promotion are able to get the lowest fare advertised. “It’s got to be very low, single digits,” he said.

Even if you aren’t able to get the fare in big, bold letters on the ad, it’s worth looking at flights while a promotion is going on. Griff said that while your trip might not fit the parameters laid out in the fine print, airlines will often discount other fares at the same time — just not by as much.

Competitors may have lower fares during sales, too. “Airlines are notorious for matching one another’s fares,” Keyes said. He noted, however, the practice is less common during advertised sales than other times that airlines slash prices.

How do I get refund from a foreign airline?

To get a comprehensive view of the options, Griff recommends looking at Google Flights. Based on stored flight data, the service can tell travelers whether a fare is higher or lower than average, and how it has changed over time. “Those are really actionable insights that I always recommend people act off,” he said.

Look beyond advertised deals

Keyes said the best deals for travelers aren’t the ones airlines are putting marketing muscle behind. “It’s the unadvertised sales that are the real gold mines,” he said.

He has recently seen deals such as $300 round-trip flights to Paris and $187 trips to Cancún, which airlines don’t have to promote. “Those fares sell themselves,” he said. Without the cost of an ad campaign and the risk of disappointing customers who don’t get the fare publicized, slashing prices quietly gives the airlines more flexibility, Keyes argued.

To keep tabs on the market, Keyes’s Scott’s Cheap Flights, Google Flights, travel app Hopper, Skyscanner and other services allow travelers to set up price alerts so they’ll know when there’s a great deal.

The case for cutting your airport arrival time dangerously close

“The best way to take advantage of those deals is to be using a tool that’s monitoring for them so that you know when they’re available on the routes you’re actually interested in,” said Hayley Berg, Hopper’s head of price intelligence.

Griff suggested that travelers book a desirable fare when they see it, as fares on all flights to, from and within the United States can be canceled within 24 hours for a full refund — with some exceptions. Customers can also use products like Hopper’s “Price Freeze” tool, Berg said, which temporarily locks in a price for a small deposit.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t take advantage of a much-hyped airline promotion. Keyes said that at least every other week, one of the major airlines has an advertised sale.

“They’ll find an excuse,” he said. “‘Oh, it’s our 50th birthday. Oh, it’s Presidents’ Day.” He added that budget airlines such as Spirit run those promotions more frequently than other types of carriers, as their clientele is made up more of leisure travelers, who are more sensitive to pricing.

Berg said passengers might find the low price they’re looking for on a route that gets them close enough to their destination.

“I would say we often see really good discount deals like that to more regional airports,” Berg said. “I think sometimes travelers get very stuck in their minds, you know, ‘I want to fly JFK to Miami,’ but they might be able to fly JFK to Fort Lauderdale, rent a car and drive the rest of the way for a deal.”

Advertised deals may also only apply to one-way flights, but to find a deal, customers could book their trip on more than one airline. “Mixing and matching the airlines you choose to fly with can seriously cut costs,” Mark Crossey, U.S. travel expert at Skyscanner, said in an email.

In general, when it comes to cheap-flight hunting, Keyes said, flexibility is key, with three main areas to think about: where you go, when you go there, and when you book. Keyes said travelers looking for affordable fares should book in the “Goldilocks windows,” not too far in advance of travel and not too close to departure. “That’s when cheap flights are most likely to pop up,” he said.

For domestic travel, that period is about one to three months ahead of a trip, while it widens to between two and eight months for international travel. For trips at peak times, like the middle of summer or around Christmas and New Year’s Eve, Keyes recommended tacking a couple of months onto those windows.

Deals aren’t limited to an airline’s fare. Berg noted that Hopper and other similar companies offer their own promotions. Those kinds of offers give customers the option of “packaging together a flight and a hotel to get a lower overall rate,” she said.

Crossey also noted that sales on flights “don’t always mean the lowest prices.” While one carrier has a sale, a budget airline might have an even cheaper fare, just as full-service airlines might run a sale offering better prices than a low-cost carrier. “When it comes to airline prices, context is everything,” he said.

As for those buzzy advertised sales, Keyes cautioned travelers not to get their hopes up. “It never hurts to poke around,” he said. “Maybe every once in a while you’ll be able to strike gold, but nine times out of ten it’s not going to end up resulting in a cheap flight that you would want.”

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As COVID restrictions ease, travel agents see spike in sales

ODESSA, Texas (KOSA) – As the pandemic winds down, the United States and the world continue to open up.

That means more people are going on vacations.

That’s good news for Kim Landreth, a travel agent and co-owner of Travel Associates International in Midland.

“All I did was cancel trip after trip after trip.”

The pandemic wrecked the travel industry. Landreth had to move her business out of an office and into her home.

She’s one of the lucky ones. Many travel agencies didn’t survive.

Now, business is quickly picking up again.

“I have a lot of people going to Mexico, which is very easy to go to,” Landreth said. “Hawaii is a huge seller.”

It’s a nationwide trend. In a recent 12,000 person survey by Expedia, 65% of respondents said they were planning to “go big” on their next trip.

The reasoning is pretty simple. People got stuck at home during the pandemic, so they saved up all their money, and now they’re looking for a place to spend it.

That’s what’s driven West Texans to Jami Turner, owner of the travel fanatic.

CBS7 conducted Turner’s interview via Zoom while she was leading a 40-person tour on a river cruise in Amsterdam.

“My phone has been going all day long, just about every day,” she said.

She thinks 2022 should be just about as profitable as 2019. Industry expectations for 2023 are even better.

Not everyone is over the pandemic. Some countries have stricter COVID guidelines than others.

But that’s for your travel agent to worry about.

“The best thing is to plan ahead,” Landreth said. “And you can always buy travel insurance, so you’re covered.”

Copyright 2022 KOSA. All rights reserved.

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Accelya Adds Amadeus Alum to Americas Sales Team

Airline technology provider Accelya has named former Amadeus executive Victor Ordóñez as VP of commercial for the North Latin America and Caribbean region, the company announced. He will report to SVP of commercial for the Americas Mark Hollander and be based in Miami.

Ordóñez joins Accelya from Amadeus where he had worked for 20 years, most recently as account director for the airline sales and account management team, focusing on airline IT solutions, according to the company. 

“[Ordóñez’s] insights, relationships and experience will provide our partners across the whole region with much added-value just as the industry gets back in the air and [New Distribution Capability] really takes wings,” Hollander said.

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Live news: US retail sales rise most in 10 months as consumers splurge on cars and furniture

Chinese factory gate inflation fell in January to its lowest rate in six months, as government intervention cooled prices in commodity markets and renewed Covid-19 lockdowns crimped demand.

The producer price index rose 9.1 per cent compared to the same period a year ago, narrowly missing the 9.5 per cent increase forecast by economists polled by Bloomberg.

The latest figures come after months of state-led intervention in energy and commodity markets following soaring factory gate inflation last year. January also saw a string of strict measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus in China, including the lockdown of Xi’an, a central Chinese city of 13mn residents.

January’s moderation in inflation was helped by declining prices of fuel and energy, metals, chemicals, timber and agricultural products, figures from National Bureau of Statistics showed.

By sector, the coal mining and washing industry saw the biggest declines, with prices falling 3.5 per cent compared to December, after the price of coal reached record highs last year.

Prices in the oil and natural gas sector rose 2.6 per cent, however, compared to December, with analysts saying that geopolitical tensions over a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine could add further price pressure.

Headline consumer price index inflation also missed forecasts, rising 0.9 per cent year-on-year, driven by a 2.5 per cent month-on-month decline in the price of pork.

“Looking ahead, PPI inflation may face upward pressure if geopolitical tensions contribute to upward pressure on commodity price,” Jing Liu, senior economist for greater China at HSBC, said in a note.

“But there is arguably more disinflationary concern given the muted core CPI inflation, as strong headwinds including the challenge posed by Omicron continue to hinder the consumption recovery and economic growth.”

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Cruise Planners: Omicron is down, sales are up: Travel Weekly

Sales are trending upward as the omicron variant of Covid-19 subsides, Cruise Planners said.

The travel agency franchisor said Friday it has seen “two consecutive weeks of positive sales purchases, inching closer to a delayed Wave season as consumer sentiment appears to be improving and people are starting to accept the reality of living with the virus.”

In the past few weeks, 24% of all purchases were for cruises in Europe or Alaska, Cruise Planners said. Luxury bookings also have risen, with January luxury sales occurring at a 24% higher volume than average.

Cruise Planners said purchases for the second half of 2022 remain strong, and that time period is outpacing 2019 departures by 37%.

One-quarter of bookings have been for 2023 departures, Cruise Planners said.

“People are ready to travel, and they don’t want to wait,” Cruise Planners founder and CEO Michelle Fee said. “The protocols are in place, and the cruising industry has been exemplary in the way they have handled the ongoing pandemic and I think our clients have peace of mind knowing that cruise lines are upholding the highest standards of safety to handle any situation that may arise.”

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United Hires Another Former Marriott Sales Vet

Andrea Robertson
Andrea Robertson

United Airlines has hired Andrea Robertson as managing director of worldwide sales for the western U.S. region, the airline told BTN. 

Robertson has several years of operations and sales experience with Marriott International, where her responsibilities included corporate and international business markets, according to United. She most recently served as VP of sales and marketing for Elegance Living, a collection of senior living communities across the United States, joining in January 2021.

Robertson will begin her position with United for Business on Feb. 14 and report directly to SVP of worldwide sales Doreen Burse. Robertson will be responsible for setting and leading the field sales strategy across the western U.S. region, as well as enhancing existing corporate sales relationships.

This is at least the second Marriott veteran Burse—who spent more than 30 years in sales and operations at Marriott before joining United last year—has brought over from the hotel company in the past few months. Leon Goldberg joined United in November after more than 30 years with Marriott.

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