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Winter is Coming!!

More accurately, WAVE SEASON IS COMING!! That thought is just as frightening for some in the travel industry as “winter is coming!” is to characters in Game of Thrones. There is general panic, anxiety and night terrors. It used to be that wave season didn’t kick in until after the new year rolled around, and it last for six to eight weeks. Then it began lasting longer.  Nowadays, for some travel agents, it feels like wave season can last three to four months (feeling like an eternity). As for when it starts, it’s feeling like November is the new January.

Cruise lines are already announcing the 2019-2020 itineraries, and opening them for booking. Royal Caribbean released their 7 night Caribbean itineraries this week, available for booking through April 2020. It’s great for the clients that like to snap up the lowest possible fares, and that want up to two year long payment plans. However, for the timid clients that worry about vacation schedules that can’t be planned at work until January each year, it’s becoming more of a challenge. Add in those enticing low fares associated with non-refundable deposits, and some clients become more anxious than travel agents.

Fortunately, we have better tools for dealing with our industry dragons. Before wave season really does hit its full zenith, this is the time to get ahead of it all and to put a plan into place.
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First, decide which cruise lines you would like to focus on. What do you sell the most? If you primarily sell Norwegian Cruise Line, then focus on their itinerary release schedule. Trying to keep up with a dozen other cruise lines (and how many ships?) won’t help you or your clients if you don’t intend to focus your sales on those cruise lines.

If you have multiple travel agents in your agency, you can divide and conquer. Assign one or two cruise lines to each agent. Each agent can become the in-house expert for their assigned cruise line(s), and everyone supports each other. Some cruise lines are already ramping up with webinars, and publishing their deployment schedule. As an example, Royal Caribbean already released the 7 night Caribbean 2019-2020 itineraries this week. These also released information about redeploying several ships in existing short Caribbean itineraries (Empress of the Season, Vision of the Seas, Enchantment of the Seas, and Majesty of the Seas). Next week brings their 2019-2020 short Caribbean itineraries. In December we’ll see the 2019-2020 Northeast, Canada, Bermuda, Alaska and some of the Europe deployments.

The rest of the cruise lines won’t be far behind.

The second step sounds simple enough: decide how to market these new itineraries to your clients. You cannot assume that you can just sit back and that the clients will knock down your door to book. They’ll start receiving direct marketing (snail mail and email) from the cruise lines. You don’t want to lose that potential business to direct bookings. Comb through your CRM, and find clients that you can target with specific itineraries. Do you have someone that’s tired of the Caribbean? Why not suggest Alaska or New England / Canada to them? Do you have clients have never cruised, but expressed interest?

I already have a group lined up and waiting for their Christmas 2019 options.  They want as much time as possible to make payments, because they know the cruise fares won’t be low. It does not take me much time at all to send out a group email with updates on when itineraries are being released and by which cruise lines.

Now is the time to plan. Once January rolls around, it may be too late to plan, as we might be fighting to keep our heads above water when the full force of wave season really hits.


Susan SchaeferSusan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations, 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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