How to Create Flash Groups – Leveraging Technology, New Facilities & Pied Pipers | TravelResearchOnline


How to Create Flash Groups – Leveraging Technology, New Facilities & Pied Pipers

A perfect storm of converging opportunities can make forming affinity groups as easy as cake…a real piece of pie. (My skills as a chef are limited but I really do know how to mix up a mean metaphor!) Let’s look at the huge opportunity offered by these converging forces – one element at a time.

Globalization & the Aging Population –

With the aging of the world’s population as a whole, there is a growing passion for continuous later-in-life learning. The prime areas of interest are food & wine, technology, art, history, culture and literature. Riding this wave, cruise lines are profiting greatly by promoting programs that offer a unique blend of education and entertainment, often referred to as “edu-tainment”. Shouldn’t you be doing the same?

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Note: For a more in depth review of just how heavily the cruise lines are investing – anticipating continued growth in this area – see my recent interview with Rick Meadows, Exec. VP, Sales, Marketing & Guest Services, Holland America Lines (HAL).

Technology & Universal Connectivity –

The ubiquitous availability of instant digital communication and global connectivity has made it possible for likeminded people to link up very quickly, making possible a phenomena called “flash mob”.

Note the following definition from Wikipedia:

Flash Mob: “a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place to perform an unusual or pointless act for a brief time, then quickly disperse. This term is generally applied only to gatherings organized via telecommunications, social media or viral emails.”

Now note that “Lyn-ipedia”  has a similar definition of a variation on this theme:

Flash Group: “a large group of people who assemble on a cruise to immerse themselves in entertaining yet educational courses of mutual interest. This term is generally applied only to gatherings organized via telecommunications, social media or viral emails.”

Here’s how the Flash Group phenomena can work for you.

Do you send out weekly/monthly email newsletters? Do you have followers on Twitter? A Facebook page? Most of you are probably already utilizing these online channels to build and communicate with your client base.

The first step to building a Flash Group is to bring your customers up-to-date on the latest / greatest cruise line on-board offerings and newest state-of-the-art facilities dedicated to edu-tainment programs. Make the communication fun. Make a game of it. Make the promotion itself edu-tainment. Give the promotion a sense of urgency…”the first twenty people to reserve space get a free chef’s hat…set of soufflé cups…garlic press”…USB drive…software application…whatever is appropriate to theme of your promotion.

Enroll the participation of your local cruise line Business Development Manager (BDM) to make this promotion a success and keep costs down. (Can you say “co-op dollars”?)  Who knows…you might even get the above give-away items for free.

(“Free” is my favorite four letter word. I use it liberally when talking to BDMs.)

You can rest assured that all items provided by the cruise lines will have their logo plastered all over them…but, what the heck, free is free.  Maybe you can have your logo added as well. (Never pass up a chance to expand awareness of yourself and your brand.)

Solicit feedback on what types of courses would be of interest. Don’t be surprised if there is strong interest in cooking and food as a hobby – given the exploding popularity of the Food Channel, magazines like Food & Wine, cooking schools and upscale restaurants.

Using high interest in culinary arts as an example, next steps would be to enroll a local chef with a following. Collaborate with the chef to whip up a hot short video – a visual appetizer, if you will – three minutes max – discussing the content of a cooking course. (Have they invented “scratch and sniff” video yet?)

Post the video on your website by embedding the linking code provided at Promote the link to both your customer list as well as the chef’s list, plus any other channel that reaches foodies.  Insert links back to the video in your newsletter.

A short cut to suitable video – You can use existing cruise line video for background footage. These videos are available for download from the cruise lines proprietary websites – Holland America calls their stash the Video Gallery.

Video clips can be captured for local display and editing from any website with applications such as RealPlayer at This application, which resides on your hard drive once installed, is especially useful if the site hosting the video has not provided an obvious way to initiate a download from the site itself.

Don’t have a local celebrity chef? Or, don’t have the time to track one down?  No problem. Cruise lines like Holland America Lines will host some 70 top ranked celebrity chefs throughout the year. Agents can just promote the sailings that feature these guest chefs. A list of chefs and sailings is always maintained and current on the HAL website.

Newest On-board Facilities –

Cruise lines are dedicating more and more of their precious on-board real estate to edu-tainment activities. Even on their smaller ships where space is at a premium and every venue must do double duty, lines like Holland America have installed million dollar state-of-the-art demonstration kitchens behind the screen in the ship’s movie theater.  Just raise the screen, turn up the lights and cue the chef for action!

The same transition is occurring with personal electronics and digital applications facilities. No longer just on-board Internet Cafes for guests to send and retrieve email – newer ships feature Digital Workshops with capacities that go far beyond simple connectivity. 

You will find courses with such names as “All Things Digital” that will include a multitude of courses for beginning, intermediate and advanced students. Courses cover such areas of interest as blogging, photography, image manipulation, video editing; mastering social media, etc.  Many of the courses are taught by professionals from such digital powerhouses as Microsoft, Adobe and Apple.

The Pied Piper Phenomena –

There are two simple conditions to quality someone as a potential Pied Piper. 

  • Are they acknowledged experts in a popular area of interest with a loyal following?
  • Would they be interested in cruising with a group of their fans?

Some suggestions on where to look for these high profile people –

  • Local radio or TV personalities
  • Local digital media gurus
  • Local chefs, restaurants and cooking schools
  • Culture & Literature Departments of Universities & Colleges
  • Book Clubs & Book Stores
  • Dance Schools & Instructors
  • Local wine makers

…the list of prospects is limitless.

In Summary – Link these four elements together, kick start the action with a little digital edu-taining of your own…and Shazam!…you’ve got yourself a Flash Group.  Look forward to fun and profits.

Author’s Bio – Lyn Edwin Cathey – Network Travel Services, LLC – A veteran of 25 years in the travel industry – holding positions within the industry such as trainer, educator, agent, consultant, agency owner/manager and product specialist. For 15 years prior to joining the travel industry Lyn worked as a full time entertainer/comedian, performing on banjo & guitar – often as a featured act on cruise ships. He created and currently maintains several websites, including – ; and

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