One of my niche specialties is cruise groups, and fellow travel professionals have contacted me seeking my input on them. This article is the first in a series designed to give you an overview on cruise group basics, including where to find group prospects, how to approach a potential Pied Piper, and how to manage the group financially and administratively to ensure the best possible success.
The first question I hear is, “where can I find people who want to travel as a group?” There have been many resources made available to answer that question in very rich detail, but one that has given me the most food for thought is a book called “The Idea Machine 2” by Dave Stockert, Director of Sales with Holland America Line. It’s available at Amazon.com for a reasonable cost, especially if you purchase a used copy. The book is filled with ideas that Stockert has gleaned from the travel agent community during his time at Holland America Line, and it not only gave me specific ideas, it helped me understand the possibilities with cruise groups and it spurred my own imagination.
If you really think about it, group travel prospects are all over the place. They’re just not standing in your face with a big sign pointing at them saying, “Here I am!” You have to find them. Regardless if you are in a large urban area or a small rural community, groups are near you. Some typical examples are social clubs, like the Junior League of Women, or the Red Hat Society. Others are civic organizations like Rotary Club and Kiwanis. Even a church can be a source of group business – don’t limit yourself. I have come across potential group prospects just by reading my local newspaper!
I use an Excel spreadsheet to list group travel prospects as I find them. I list the name of the group (Rotary, church name, etc.), a potential contact person, what type of group travel I think would be a good fit for them, and then I give myself a timeline to reach out to that group and try to earn the business. Keeping this in Excel allows me to add, remove, and edit the list as I need to. Perhaps I have a contact person listed, but I really need to be talking to someone else in the organization. Or, perhaps I thought a particular group would be a good fit for Holland America Line, but after talking with them I discovered they were a better fit for Celebrity. The list should be always changing!
Then, one by one, I begin contacting the people on my spreadsheet. Sometimes they won’t have any interest, and sometimes you have to have a dialogue with them that can last anywhere from a week to a few months, but you will know soon enough whether it’s a viable prospect, and you can either eliminate them from your list or begin developing the group.
Comment below and let me know what problems you have had in getting group cruise business. Even better, let me know what has worked for you!
Steve Cousino, ACC, CTA, LS is a five-year industry veteran and owner of Journeys By Steve, an affiliate of Sunnyland Tours & Travel in Springfield, MO. He holds Lifestyle Specialist designations in Luxury Travel and Gay/Lesbian Travel, and is known for specializing in cruises, Western European tours, group travel, and culinary-themed travel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through his website at http://www.JourneysBySteve.com