Not too long ago, the mass market cruise lines were reducing their inventory in the Caribbean. The economy was struggling, demand was down, and inventory was saturated so ships were deployed to other regions. The question is, has this turned around?
Recently, Celebrity Cruise Line announced that the they are redeploying the Celebrity Equinox to sail the Caribbean next summer. Add in all the other cruise lines deploying ships to the Caribbean next summer, and we have 20 or more ships in the region. Approximately half of those ships belong to Carnival Cruises alone. With cruise lines aggressively increasing inventory in the region, this can be interpreted as their belief that demand will be rising to meet the increased inventory.
This is a great opportunity for travel agents. There will be an array of itinerary and ship amenity options. We have more to offer to clients besides the standard western and eastern Caribbean fare. As an example, the Celebrity Equinox will have itineraries ranging from 7 to 11 nights in length, calling on ports as far away as Cartagena, Colombia. Also, many of their longer itineraries offer overnight port stays, with the most intriguing itinerary including a 3-night stay in port in New Orleans during Jazz Fest. To encourage travel agents to book this sailings, Celebrity is currently offering bonus commission and a sweepstakes for a chance to win a free cruise yourself.
If you sell cruises and you are not already promoting summer 2017 Caribbean sailings to your clients, what are you waiting for? I wouldn’t promote every sailing on every ship of every cruise line. Instead, focus on your preferred cruise line suppliers. Here are some suggestions of how to do this:
- Scan through their summer itineraries; be selective in picking itineraries to promote.
- If you can, block group space (8-24 rooms) on the sailings you are interested in, locking in today’s prices. If you work with a host agency, you’ll need to check on their policy about how independent contractors can block promotional group space.
- Contact your BDM with the cruise line, and put together a marketing plan on how to promote the sailings you selected. Again, if you book through a host agency, you will need to confirm their policies about ICs contacting BDMs directly. When you talk with your BDM, find out if they can give you additional amenity points or put together a private cruise sale for you. Private cruise sales might include reduced deposits, a discount on the cruse fare, or onboard credit as a booking incentive. Also ask your BDM if they have co-op dollars that they can give you to help with direct mail, marketing, or hosting a cruise night.
- Comb through your database of clients and compile a list of everyone that you feel is a good candidate for any of the itineraries you chose to promote. If the list is small, call each client individually. If the list is overwhelming, too large to ideally call every single one, then divide the list into two. The smaller of the two lists will be those clients that you want to reach out to individually by phone. The larger of the two lists will be those clients that you will send an email to instead. I recommend using an email service like Mail Chimp or Constant Contact, where you can create a single email, making it look personalized, but only having to send it once to your whole list.
At this time of year when new bookings are low, this is a great time to focus your marketing efforts on a strategy to bolster bookings.
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.