Cruising is rapidly gaining in popularity and with over 17 new ships due to be launched in 2024 the trend is set to continue.
Passengers can visit numerous exotic destinations all in one trip without having to change hotels or even get on a plane. And with so many cruise lines and itineraries to choose from, a cruise holiday can be tailored specifically to a client’s needs as they glide along some of the world’s most gorgeous waterways and traverse the world’s oceans.
With the sale of a cruise holiday being among the most lucrative for a travel agent (commissions are typically higher for cruise than other areas of travel), and many passengers booking their next cruise before they’ve even disembarked, one question on the mind of many consultants is how to sell cruise packages efficiently and profitably. That’s exactly what we cover in this article, so keep reading to find out more!
1. Understand your client
If you’re wondering how to sell a cruise holiday that satisfies your client’s needs as well as meets your own personal sales objectives, the very first thing you need to do is deeply understand your client, their preferences and non-negotiables.
There are a few important questions you should ask the client to determine what these are. Some of these questions include:
- Is this your first cruise holiday or are you a return/repeat “cruiser”?
- How many people will you be travelling with? Will this be a solo, group trip or otherwise?
- What is your budget for the cruise holiday i.e. will this be a luxury trip or a budget-friendly cruise?
- Which cruise route/destination do you have in mind and how many days do you have spare?
- What time of year do you want to travel and what type of weather do you want ideally?
- How long would you like your journey to be and are you happy to fly to join your cruise?
- Is there a particular cruise brand you have in mind and which brands have you sailed with previously?
- If you’ve cruised before, what did you like, what didn’t you like?
- What facilities are non-negotiable and which activities would you like to participate in or are there any special sights you would like to see when your ship stops at different ports?
- Are you looking for any special add-ons such as additional transportation, spa treatments, on-board entertainment, food and restaurant recommendations, merchandise or anything else?
- What type of cabin are you looking for?
- Do you hate/love buffets. What sort of food would make this a memorable trip?
Asking the right questions to determine what kind of cruise experience your client is looking for is the first step to ensuring you provide them with the best cruise experience.
2. Know the product inside out
Our second tip for selling cruise holidays is to know the product extremely well. The more knowledgeable you are, the better you will be able to answer your clients’ questions. This means you will be considered a source of trusted information that can be relied upon. And this, in turn, makes you a specialist in your field because your knowledge of different cruise lines, destinations and types of cruises will help you build your travel agency business’ brand.
With a plethora of cruise lines, hundreds of ships and thousands of itineraries to choose from, let alone the various cabin options on board, mastering the cruise industry is not an easy task. It takes time and hard work to learn all the ropes and become an expert.
To build your knowledge, it’s highly advisable that you attend industry webinars, visit cruise ships through hosted ship visits, participate in training sessions offered by cruise companies or even go on one or two cruise trips yourself. Some companies, such as The Travel Franchise, offer training to help you become a cruise expert. Other agents choose to join Cruise Lines International Association(CLIA) and attend its conferences and training.
3. Highlight the unique benefits of cruising
Tip number three is to be as convincing as possible. Some clients may be in two minds about whether to go on a cruise or pursue another type of holiday experience. This is where your expertise needs to shine.
You need to highlight the unique benefits and valuable experiences of going on a cruise compared to other types of holidays. Examples of aspects you could emphasise in your offering include cruising’s all-inclusive pricing; the broad variety of destinations they can visit in the one trip; on-board entertainment; ease and convenience of travel and the opportunity to meet other people if your client is a solo traveller.
4. Customise and personalise
Whether you’re catering to an individual, a couple or a large group of tourists, you need to be able to take your service to the next level. This means specially tailoring cruise packages to individual client preferences.
One cruise line is not the same as another – so in the first place, it’s vitally important you match your client with the cruise line that suits them. For example, Virgin Voyages is for adults only looking to let their hair down; Crystal Cruises is more suited to well-heeled travellers looking for luxury with all the finer touches; families will love Royal Caribbean International, MSC or P&O Cruises; adventure seekers might want to explore the Arctic with Hurtigruten; while AmaWaterways might best suit those wanting to glide down the historic rivers in Europe.
Once you’ve matched your client with the right cruise line, it’s time to cross and up-sell in order to make the experience even more personalised. For example, suggest cabin upgrades; sign them up to specific tours or book on board experiences such as spa treatments. You can even go one step further and book private tours at some of the ports of call or reserve them a table at a specific restaurant during their stay in port.
All these added extras will make the idea of going on a cruise even more appealing.
5. Utilise effective marketing strategies
It is an undeniable fact that travel agents face a mountain of competition. The cruise sector is no exception. Agents are competing for business with the cruise lines themselves, since all cruise lines offer the ability for passengers to book directly on the cruise line’s own website or over the phone.
As an independent travel agent, you have the advantage of being completely unbiased. You have the pick of the entire industry. Your clients can tap into your knowledge rather than having to do all the research themselves. But to attract the clients you need to stand out in order to get their attention.
A few of the most important ways you can achieve this is to have a solid marketing strategy. This might include:
- Building an attractive website that you update regularly with valuable content and information.
- Utilising search engine optimisation (SEO) strategies to ensure you gain higher rankings on search engine results pages.
- Creating lead magnets, such as newsletters, and building your email list. From there, make sure to email your subscribers great cruise offers on a regular basis.
- Using the power of social media to give your online travel agency greater visibility.
- Making use of paid advertising and pay-for ad space online, depending on your budget.
- Hosting cruise information events.
As a final point related to this tip, it’s important to incorporate beautiful visuals and storytelling when selling the cruise experience. Visuals enable clients to imagine themselves at the exotic destination, while the power of storytelling encourages them to create their very own special and memorable story. Visuals can easily be sourced from the cruise lines themselves who are only too happy for the free promotion. Alternatively, posting your very own shots recounting your own first-hand cruise experiences is incredibly valuable – a perfect way for you to show your expertise.
6. Follow-up and build relationships
Did you know, cruise passengers often become so hooked on the experience that, very often, they book their next cruise even before they’ve disembarked their current one? And if you’re the agent that booked them on the cruise in the first place, you should get commission for their next cruise without doing much work!
It’s therefore vital that you build and maintain a strong relationship with your client. Be sure to stay in contact with them – even when they are on board, to check they are enjoying the voyage and if they need anything.
Make sure you get feedback from your clients after their cruise. Be sure to give them a call to discuss their experience and ask them to call you if they wish to book another holiday. You can send a personalised email to gather their feedback. Alternatively, you can meet them in person for drinks or over lunch to discuss their cruise.
This is your chance to see if anything could have been done better and identify areas for improvement. It’s also a great way to show them that you care about their experience, making them feel personally connected to you and more likely to recommend you to others in their network based on the great rapport and valuable information you provided them with.
As you’ve probably gathered, becoming a cruise travel agent is no small feat. By following these tips you’ll be able to greatly enhance your cruise credentials. Although you shouldn’t underestimate the time and effort needed to become an expert, the results can be financially rewarding and you’ll have carved a niche in this highly specialised sector of travel.
To give you a head start and to provide the ongoing training and support required to keep up with the ever-changing and expanding cruise sector, you may want to consider joining a travel franchise that has a specific cruise division with cruise experts at the helm. The Travel Franchise offers just that.
Agents who sign up to its Cruise Mastery Programme see their cruise sales sky rocket. Members get to join the company on its Seminar at Sea, which are training sessions on board some of the newest ships on a real cruising itinerary – a perfect way for them not only to learn about the cruise industry but also to experience life on board so they can sell the product with greater confidence.
What’s more, The Travel Franchise has devised its very own, unique cruise booking website. This acts as a tool for agents to simplify the notoriously complicated cruise sector. Rather than taking hours upon hours to research and compare the various cruise options available, agents are able to do this within minutes. This allows them to present the options to their clients in double-quick time, making them appear highly efficient and knowledgeable.
With The Travel Franchise, agents can take advantage of exceptional training and continued support, highly competitive commissions, a low initial investment, the chance to win your initial franchise fee back and so much more.
With one of the industry’s leading cruise franchises at your side, you’ll be able to discover your full earning potential while working from the comfort and convenience of your own home and enjoying the ability to travel to exotic destinations yourself.