The travel industry is a hugely popular sector to work in, and many who run successful travel agencies describe it as a lifestyle rather than a career. There’s no other industry where you can explore new destinations regularly while helping people achieve their dream holidays, and make a living at the same time!
Many agents decide to specialise in a specific type of travel, for example, golf skiing and weddings allowing them to deliver a focused experience. Cruising is one of the most lucrative sectors on which to focus, due to current high demand and repeat bookings.
According to Cruise Lines International Association, cruise customers are 85% more likely to book a cruise as their next holiday, which leaps to 97% if they used a specialist travel agency to book their last one.
The same survey showed that over 71% of former cruise customers expressed an interest in taking another cruise within three years of their previous holiday, and 70% said they had already taken multiple cruises.
So building a cruise travel agency is a fantastic idea, especially with the leisure cruise industry set to reach pre-pandemic levels in the next year.
What skills do you need to become a cruise travel agent?
Although you don’t need any qualifications to become a cruise travel agent, you will need some basic training as it’s a fairly complicated product to sell. There are also several soft skills that will make becoming a successful cruise holiday agency easier.
Excellent verbal communication skills
Excellent communication skills are essential for collaborating with holiday providers and your customers. Having a clear speaking voice and the ability to explain concisely and confidently are all great qualities to foster, and will put people at ease.
Your customers need to know that working with you will deliver the best cruise experience, so being passionate about cruising is essential.
Active listening skills
Having the ability to listen actively is crucial to building strong connections with your customers. Pay attention to what they are looking for in a cruise, provide advice when asked and remain engaged throughout in order to establish a rapport with them.
Customer service skills
These are essential to delivering customer satisfaction and translate into repeat business, great reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations.
Essential skills include:
- Lateral thinking
To become a cruise travel agent, it’s crucial to build a solid base of reliable repeat customers who think you’re the best agency. The foundations for bringing customers back again and again are:
- Responding rapidly to customers – most customers expect instant responses. Even if you cannot provide a complete answer to their query, it’s important to acknowledge their message and let them know you are dealing with it.
- Getting to know your customers – by keeping accurate, detailed records of your interactions, customers don’t have to repeat themselves every time they communicate with you. Treating customers as individuals builds a good relationship.
- Acknowledging and rectifying mistakes quickly – most unhappy customers are looking for an apology and a way to resolve the issue. Always be ready with a practical solution, and implement it as quickly as possible.
- Going the extra mile – there’s often minimal additional effort involved in changing satisfied customers to delighted ones, and this is what you should be aiming for. Make notes of children’s names or pets if they come up in conversation, remember what they enjoyed on a previous cruise, or send a card on their birthday. These are all small, easily achievable gestures that make a world of difference to your customer.
The ability to sell products and services
Cruise companies want you to know their ships inside and out, which means there are many opportunities to sign up for online training, tours of ships, webinars and educational cruise trips. FAMs, short for familiarisation, allow you to fully immerse yourself in the cruise, exploring everything the ship offers, often for free or reduced price.
Whether or not FAMs are an option, research everything. Understand the ship’s layout, dig deep into the destinations your customers will visit, and learn about the culture, wildlife and history of the region. Your hard work will pay off when it comes to selling the cruise.
There are several key points to remember when it comes to selling; utilising these can make all the difference to your agency.
- First impressions count. Always answer the phone, or respond to messages in a polite and approachable manner. Sound enthusiastic and don’t interrupt or try to second-guess your caller
- Try to answer the phone within three rings
- When talking to customers, even on the phone, remember to smile. You may not realise it, but smiling subtly alters the tone of your voice, making it sound warmer and more friendly
- Listen more than you talk
- If you’ve arranged to ring back, make sure you do
Attention to detail
It’s essential to be meticulous and accurate in all your tasks, no matter how small. For example, make sure customers’ names, passport numbers, and travel dates are correct. your customers’ holiday plans and watch for any areas that could be improved, such as flight connections. As mistakes could be disastrous for everyone, make sure your customers get exactly what they paid for by double-checking the small print.
Passion for cruise travel
Enthusiasm is contagious, and if you have a passion for cruise travel, your customers will pick up on your enjoyment. To specialise, it helps to have taken some cruises yourself, making it easy to understand exactly what your customer is looking for in theirs.
Being a keen cruiser, you’ll find delving into your topic interesting and passing on that knowledge enjoyable. Whether you’ve sailed north to see the Northern Lights or relaxed on a cruise around the Mediterranean, your customers will pick up on your passion and excitement.
Get to know your customers well
To foster loyalty, it’s important to get to know your customers as individuals. Cruise lovers make up the majority of repeat travel bookings, and if they have an agency they have an established relationship with, they’ll return cruise after cruise.
Keep detailed notes about each customer, and refer to them when recommending a cruise. Your information should include:
- What type of traveller are they? Do your customers book a cruise once every few years or several a year? Maybe they like to book several back-to-back trips?
- What type of experience are they after? Are your customers looking for a family cruise or the height of luxury? Do they want to onboard entertainment such as Broadway shows or lectures by intellectuals?
- What budget do they have? This gives you a rough idea of their limitations and what extras you can suggest.
- How much time do they have? Are they looking for a five-night trip around the Med, or something longer. Are they prepared to fly or do they want to depart from the UK?
Develop your skills to become a successful cruise travel agent
Becoming a successful cruise travel agent takes time and effort – it’s not something you can achieve overnight, but it’s an exciting industry that can earn you a good income. Developing skills and enrolling on training courses will give you firm foundations on which to build your business.
Become a certified cruise agent
There is no formal process for becoming a cruise holiday agency, and it’s not necessary to take any exams, but research shows that one way to demonstrate your integrity and build customer trust is to become a certified cruise specialist, with various companies and cruise lines offering training and accreditation.
Take training classes
Training programmes and webinars increase your skill set, build self-confidence, and can take your business to the next level.
Several online travel agency courses are organised by respected companies, such as Reed, the high street employment agency. These include accreditations, industry diplomas and QLS-endorsed qualifications.
Other training classes will help your business grow and are well worth considering. If your IT skills could be improved, numerous online courses will steer you in the right direction, while social media marketing is another area that is exceptionally useful to know.
Develop basic business skills
A core understanding of fundamental business concepts can boost your cruise travel agency; many courses will help you develop these.
These skills include:
- Financial management
- Project planning
- Goal setting
- Negotiation skills
Get to know the service you’re selling
If you haven’t already, book yourself on cruises with different lines. This will allow you to experience cruising from the perspective of your customers. Try different types, such as river and ocean cruises, as well as large liners and small sailing vessels. Use the onboard facilities, take an excursion, and dig deep into why people love cruises.
Cruise lines often provide training around their own products, and it makes sense to use their educational resources. Agencies can earn rewards for completing their courses, and this adds to their validity in the eyes of cruise suppliers.
These courses can assist cruise agencies in advising their customers on the holiday that would be the best fit. Focus your attention on a couple of cruise lines initially before branching out and developing your expertise.
Stay in touch with your clients
Cruise customers form a reliable, repeat base – providing you keep them happy. Once they’ve chosen an agency they like, one that looks after them and delivers every time, they will tend to stick with that agency.
Keep in touch with your customers. Let them know of any special offers on cruises they might be interested in, or drop them an email after their cruise to check that everything was okay – these are easy ways to make each customer feel important. If they book through you regularly, consider sending flowers to thank them for their custom.
Building strong relationships costs nothing but can turn a happy customer into an ecstatic one, who will tell all their friends about the wonderful cruise you arranged for them.
Selling cruises from home
Now is the perfect time to become a cruise travel agent from home, with the industry recovering rapidly from the COVID pandemic, and cruise customers returning in droves. Working remotely via the internet is becoming the new normal, and both businesses and consumers are familiar with online purchasing. You can start building your business from anywhere you want if you have a strong internet connection and access to a laptop and mobile phone.
The Travel Franchise offers access to the leading cruise brands, including Royal Caribbean International, Cunard and Princess Cruises, providing you with all the training and tools necessary to start selling cruises.
It also offers fam trips onboard new cruise lines, as well as Seminars at Sea where you get trained by the experts while enjoying a real cruise.