I recently wrote about making more money with cruise groups and selling more luxury cruises. This time, I want to discuss other ways of increasing your income when selling cruises; the ancillary products that many travel agents seem to be letting slip through their fingers. If you have ever taken a sales class, you’ve probably heard the term “cross selling.” The definition is simply to “sell (a different product or service) to an existing customer.” McDonald’s perfected the cross-sell, with the simple phrase “would you like fries with that?” They have also perfected making it annoying, especially if you already have fries on your order, and they just automatically ask the question because they aren’t paying attention (but that’s a topic for a future article).
What are the “fries” in the travel industry? Hopefully, the first thing you think of is travel insurance. Simply for liability reasons we should be offering travel insurance to every client that walks in the door or picks up the phone. But travel insurance is a good commissionable product, with agencies making 20% to 47% commissions on the third-party travel insurance products that they sell. Hopefully agents are not leaving that money on the table by forgetting to offer insurance to their clients.
Where else can you add to the bottom line? Pre-cruise hotels. This is another liability issue in my mind, as well. In terms of when to arrive to their cruise port, we should always be advising a client to arrive the day before departure for domestic cruises (unless they live less than an hour away from the port), and two to three days before departure if they are flying internationally. Although this is not directly cruise-related, it is still a good illustration. For high school graduation, we sent our daughter on a Contiki vacation through Europe. We added a two-day pre-tour stay in London. Her flight out of Nashville was cancelled due to weather in Atlanta (her connection) affecting arrivals and departures. We got her re-accommodated the next day with a connection through JFK instead (because the weather issues were ongoing in Atlanta). She missed one of her pre-tour days in London, but she didn’t miss her tour. Someone else on her tour was delayed because she timed her arrival with the start of the tour (no pre-tour stay). She missed the tour departing London and had to catch up with them two days later in Paris.
Missing a ship can be more complicated if several sea days are at the beginning of the itinerary. Yes, pre-cruise stays are commissionable cross-sell opportunities for us, but it’s also a liability issue (if a client misses their cruise and blames you for not recommending flying in a few days early).
Shore excursions seem to be a cross-sell product that many travel agents overlook, possibly intentionally avoiding. Many agents have said that they help their clients to book cruise-line excursions, which are not commissionable in most cases, but they don’t offer commissionable excursions from third-party companies like Shore Trips (http://www.shoretrips.com) or Island Routes (http://www.islandroutes.com). I definitely recommend working with a reputable third-party excursion company that has a policy in place addressing what happens in the unlikely event of a client missing their ship as a result of the excursion returning late. One agent’s policy is to make at least one third-party excursion recommendation on every itinerary he quotes. The clients may not always book his recommendation, but they definitely will never book at it if it’s not recommended in the first place.
Now this is where many of you will cringe. What about selling airfare? You can book commissionable (international) airfare through a consolidator (and they’ll help with domestic flights too, just no commission available). They also allow the ability to add your own booking fee. CCRA is also rolling out a booking tool that will allow you to book commissionable airfare without an ARC appointment.
Even through the commission alone on a cruise booking might be less than you would like, there are several options available to you that add to your bottom line. When looking at ways to increase your income, instead of adding more clients to your juggling act, how about asking your existing clients “would you like fries with that?”
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.