It’s not your imagination. Making a decent living selling mass market cruises has become more challenging over the years. I just finished booking a good client on an upcoming cruise. The commission? A whopping $34.00 total. When pressed about non-commissionable cruise fares, most cruise line executives answer, “sell more.” Vicki Freed recently commented similarly in an interview with TRO. She went further to suggest working with your Business Development Manager to hammer out a game plan that includes increased co-op marketing and increased commission levels. But at the end of the day, the answer is still “sell more.”
So how can you effectively “sell more” when you still only have 24 hours in any given day? Presumably 8-10 hours of each of those days is taken up by sleeping, eating, and other mundane things, like interacting with your loved ones. Add in the fact that most travel professionals pride themselves on providing personalized service to their clients, which limits how many clients that they can handle in a 10-14 hour day (assuming you actually want to work that many hours in a day). The assembly line “book, book, book faster” mentality doesn’t jive well with the idea of spending as much time as necessary with each client (you know, customer service).
The way I see it, we have a couple of options.
Abandon mass market cruise lines and focus on luxury. There are travel professionals making good (dare we say, great) money doing this. They refuse to book less than a luxury line (like Regent Seven Seas) or less than a suite on mass market lines. By focusing on the higher lines, and higher mass market suite categories, they don’t bother with $34.00 commission bookings. Admittedly, I loved my first four suite booking on Regent Seven Seas commission check … just a couple of Big Macs short of being five figures (left of the decimal point).
But something as drastic as abandoning the standard room categories on mass market ships isn’t comfortable for many travel professionals. Which brings us to the second option that satisfies the “sell more” mantra without turning your agency into an assembly line – focusing on group cruises. Group cruises can give you a competitive edge: locked in lower cruise fares and group amenities, such as onboard credit. Themed group cruises can also give you the opportunity to add a mark up to the cruise fare, making your group un-shoppable.
If you haven’t done groups before, and are comfortable jumping blind into this potentially lucrative business, you’re not alone. Stuart Cohen (http://www.stuartlloydcohen.com) will be launching a boot camp later this month, and it will be focused on how to successfully add group cruises to your business. In the meantime, do some pre-boot camp homework. Talk to existing clients and get suggestions from them about groups they would be interested in (golfing, foodies, knitters, quilters, Majong players, etc.). Once Stuart launches his boot camp, you’ll be prepared with a list of potential groups that you might want to put together, once again making good money selling cruises.
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.kickbuttvaations.com) she focuses on travel for 18 to 23 year olds. Susan can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (888) 221-1209.