We have hit that time of year again, when travel agents are concerned that although clients are cruising, no one seems to be booking future cruises. “Wave season” is that time of year, typically between January and April, when the bulk of cruises tend to be booked in a wave/spike. By the time the summer months roll around, we have clients leaving right and left on those cruises booked during wave season, but the phone isn’t ringing as much with new bookings. What are some strategies that travel agents can utilize during the slower summer months?
Your Current Cruisers
As you prepare your clients as they depart on cruises this summer, educate them on the cruise line’s incentives to rebook while they’re onboard the ship. Some travel agents go so far as to draft a letter on behalf of the client as an introduction to the onboard rebooking agents or loyalty ambassador. In these letters they include the clients names and current booking confirmation number(s) and room number(s), and all of their travel agency information so that any new bookings can be credited to their agency. When delivering cruise documents, or going over cruise check-in and boarding policies by phone, you can quickly education clients about the ability to rebook while onboard and the benefits of doing so (such as discounted rates, onboard credit offerings, reduced deposit amount, etc.). Also explain to them how to have the new booking credited to your agency, so you can service the booking for them. As we’re always taught in sales classes, ASK FOR THE SALE. When they return home from their cruise, follow up and not only welcome them home, but ask if they did rebook onboard. Don’t assume that the booking was properly credited to your agency. Follow up on their return so that you can have bookings transferred to your agency if necessary.
Finding Future Cruisers
How do you market cruising outside of Wave Season? A current lull in business can be a chance to get out to network and market. As I mentioned in a recent column, you should always market yourself first, but also take advantage of opportunities to educate the public about cruising and your relationship with your preferred cruise suppliers. If you are in a networking group that allows you to periodically do a 10 minute presentation, why not focus on your topic on cruising? Possible topics can include tips on how to pick a stateroom, what to pack for a cruise, the advantages of cruising, or about potential cruise destinations. Get them excited about cruising, and of course, about working with you.
Groups can be a lucrative way to book cruises and make good commissions. Whether you are talking to existing cruisers, or potential future cruisers, talk to them about groups. You can give them a wide range of ideas for viable groups, whether it’s a multi-generational family cruise, work related, centered around a hobby, or just a group of friends traveling together. Incentivize them with the tour conductor credits that they can earn, and the group amenities and possible discounted pricing that you can secure with the cruise line for their group.
As I said earlier, ASK FOR THE SALE. This also extends to asking for referrals. Of course when you’re out networking you are asking for referrals. However, you should always be asking existing clients for referrals as well. When they initially book and deposit, you should ask if there is anyone that they’d like to invite to go on the cruise with them (hint: I mentioned groups in the paragraph above). Don’t stop there. When they’re getting ready to depart, ask for referrals. When you follow up with them after they return from home, ask for referrals. Some travel agents incentivize referrals with a future travel credit or restaurant credit card, but that is a very subjective decision. It works very well for some agents, but doesn’t seem to work at all for others. If you want to offer incentives, survey your clients to determine what might work best. What tips do you have when you hit a booking dry spell?
Susan 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (888) 221-1209.