Crunching the Numbers on Cruise Tours | TravelResearchOnline

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Crunching the Numbers on Cruise Tours

Susan SchafferIf you could double your cruise commission, would you do what was necessary? If you’re not already selling cruise tours in eligible destinations, you are definitely leaving serious money on the table. One simple example: a 7-night Alaska sailing southbound from Seward to Vancouver with two passengers in a balcony stateroom. Cruise-only would cost the clients approximately $4,350 for just the 7-night cruise, and the commission (assuming 10%) is roughly $360. However, if you sell a cruise tour package including a 6-night pre-cruise land package, the client total is $7,900 and your commission nearly doubles, jumping to $716. The land portions of cruise tours are typically fully commissionable. There are no NCCFs (non-commission cruise fares) to complicate the math.

There are quite a few travel professionals that sell Alaska cruises, and are vaguely aware of the cruise tour option in Alaska. However, Alaska isn’t the only destination where land tour options are available (and commissionable). Other destinations include Europe, Hawaii, Australia, and New Zealand. Whenever selling a cruise, I would recommend always checking to see if any cruise lines include land packages that can be added onto the cruise pre- or post-sailing.

Most cruise tour destinations are not close to home, making them even more appealing. If your clients are going to fly all the way to (name a destination), then why not get the most out of their airfare bucks and maximize your time at the destination? More than likely the airfare is going to be the same if they fly to a destination for 8-nights (cruise plus one pre-night in a hotel) compared to flying to the same destination for 15 nights. Price out the airfare and then break it down into a daily average for your clients. For example, let’s take an $800 per person airfare. That averages out to $100 per night if they just do a cruise and one pre-cruise hotel night. Or, it works out to $57 per night if they do a pre-night in a hotel, a 7 night cruise, and a 6 night land tour package. Psychologically clients respond to the lower price per night.

“But their total package price will increase.” Yes it will, but they’ll get a longer experience, and see so much more than if they stuck with only a cruise. In the pricing example I gave at the beginning of this article, $4,350 divided by 7 nights is about $621 per night. Add the land tour and the $7,900 total divided by 13 nights is about $607 per night. The per night pricing decreases with the addition of the land package.

With most cruise tour destinations, the biggest question to ask a client is this: “When will you be able to return to this destination to experience the rest of it?” Alaska is almost as big as the continental United States. Would someone visiting the US for a once-in-a-life-time visit stick to just seeing Florida? Or would they want to include more? The same applies to Alaska. The inside passage is amazing, but it’s such a tiny percentage of what Alaska has to offer. You can also say the same about Australia. Cruising the coastal cities of Australia is great, but such a small portion of the country overall, and Australia is a much longer flight from the United States. How likely is it that a client will go back to Australia multiple times in order to fully experience everything that the destination has to offer? In most cases, not very likely. If they are going to spend the money to get there, maximize their time and help them see as much as possible in the most efficient way possible; with a cruise and land tour packaged together.

Do you have to sell the cruise line’s land packages? Of course not. If you have the time and the tour operator resources at your disposal, you can put together your own customized land itinerary for your clients. I had to break down and do this for an Alaska cruise group years ago. The main reason was that the group members could not come to an agreement on which land package to add onto their cruise. The one thing they all agreed on, however, was no motor coach transportation, at all. Every single land package offered by all of the cruise lines at that time included some transportation by motor coach. No one offered train-only land packages. In an instance like that, where there is something your clients want or need and it’s not offered by the cruise line, you can build your own customized FIT land tour. But when calculating your commission to hours spent on the itinerary planning, there is more bang for your buck when booking the cruise line tour packages.

Even if you only make 10% commission from the cruise lines, you will spend little time picking and booking the land package in conjunction with the cruise itinerary. When piecing together a customized itinerary, you will spend many hours working on it. Even if you get 12-13% commission from the tour operator, your time spent working on the package will be much higher, and your per-hour pay will be less more than likely.

So you sell cruises, but you’ve never sold a cruise line cruise tour package. No need to worry, reach out to your cruise line Business Development Manager (BDM) and ask about training on how to better sell their cruise tour packages. The BDMs will be more than happy to help you increase your sales, which will increase your profit as well.


Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel (www.shipsntripstravel.com) located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations (www.kickbuttvacations.com), she focuses on travel for 18 to 23-year-olds. Susan can be reached by email at susan@shipsntripstravel.com or by phone at (888) 221-1209.

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