Hans holds an MBA from Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Until 2008 Hans held various marketing and sales roles in Fast Moving Consumer Goods companies like Kimberly-Clark and Sara Lee. In 2008, Hans combined his love for adventure travel and his expertise in marketing when he joined TUI and became Managing Director of Sawadee Reizen in The Netherlands. In 2010, Hans moved to Toronto and became president of Quark Expeditions, the leader in polar travel. In 2015 he took over responsibility for all adventure brands within TUI, a business that was sold to KKR in 2017. In 2018 Hans became CEO and President of boutique luxury cruise start-up Victory Cruise Lines in the United States, while he is also a trustee of the Safer Tourism Foundation in the UK.
Travel Research Online (TRO): In the past, you worked a lot with marketing and sales. What made you make the jump to the travel industry in 2008?
Hans Lagerweij(HL): I indeed had a previous 12-year-long career in marketing consumer product, but I missed the passion for – and the purpose of – those products. I was (and still am) a very active traveler, and this was a unique chance to work on one of the most inspiring products in the world – travel! I have a natural passion for travel products, and believe that if done well, selling travel can achieve more than just making money. Travel can educate and change people, provide income to people in developmental countries and contribute to protect vulnerable areas in our world.
TRO: You’ve come a long way since starting in the travel industry, from sales to CEO. What drives you to accomplish your goals?
HL: There are a couple of motivational drivers. First of all, you sell one of the most important products consumers buy during a year – their holidays, a time to relax and experience with their loved ones. I love to surprise customers and exceed their expectations, so they come back to you. Secondly, working in travel gives you the opportunity to work with an extremely wide diversity of people – from different cultures, countries and background. No single day is the same, and that’s what makes life interesting to me. Thirdly, I was lucky to work with companies that needed to develop and grow – I think “building something” is something that motivates me since I played with Lego as a young kid! Lastly, as said before, I believe Travel can have a strong purpose to build a better world.
TRO: How are you enjoying the position of CEO so far?
HL: It is brilliant. This is my first experience in a start-up environment, so there is more “building” to be done – but I love it. It is also great to experience an environment with a small group of very ambitious private investors, which means we decide and move so much faster than big publicly traded companies, like I used to work for.
TRO: What do you think Victory brings to the table that sets them apart from other cruise lines?
HL: Our small ships have real character, which means that we offer a “boutique cruise” experience with personalized service in an intimate atmosphere. Furthermore, we only focus on three destinations: The Great Lakes & Canada, Cuba, and The Yucatan peninsula. So we are true destination experts who deliver authentic and in-depth experiences. We are the market leader on the Great Lakes, offering more itineraries, ports and departures than any other cruise line. In Cuba we offer complete circumnavigations, offering more shore time than any other cruise line. Last but not least all our excursions, activities, meals, drinks, and even Wi-Fi are “all-inclusive”.
TRO: How does Victory work with travel agents, as far as commissions and available information about your product?
HL: Travel agents are a very important distribution channel. We offer high commissions on our all-inclusive rates, offering a very interesting incentive to sell our products. We have a unique, closed Facebook group for travel agents called Victory Cruise Visionaries. There, we share daily updates about our products, promotions and activities. Also, we have a partner resource center under development, to be launched soon, where travel agents can easily find all the information they need to sell our products.
TRO: Victory offers cruises to various destinations like the Yucatan, Great Lakes, and Cuba. Are there any other destinations on the horizon for Victory?
HL: We are currently developing one new destination for 2020, that we aim to announce in the fall. But we also believe that the Great Lakes, Canada, Yucatan and Cuba provide some further growth opportunities.
TRO: Is there anything else you’d like to add about the future of Victory that our readers should be on the lookout for?
HL: I would say join our Facebook group Victory Cruise Lines Visionaries and sign-up on our website to receive regular updates about our company and products, as we are certainly an innovative cruise company that will surprise and delight our travel agent partners in the future!
For more information about Victory Cruise Lines