In 2005 the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) launched an innovative marketing campaign, World’s Largest Cruise Night. The basic concept was to have travel agencies host cruise nights throughout the United States on the same night in October. Several hundred agencies participated in the event. After a couple of years they added “virtual” cruise nights to the event, expanding the number of agencies and consumers participating in this one night activity.
What started as a one-night event eventually morphed into a week-long campaign targeting a set week in October. Eventually, it became the National Plan a Cruise Month encompassing the whole month of October. This year it has been rebranded as Global #ChooseCruise Month. It’s the same idea, a month long marketing campaign focused on cruise vacations, taken from a national focus to a global one.
For agency members, CLIA provides marketing tools to promote cruising during the month of October. Also, cruise lines often create specific marketing incentives to coincide with CLIA’s marketing campaign. In most instances, agencies do not need to be CLIA members to take advantage of these promotions. A couple of examples include Crystal Cruises promotion of $100 shipboard credit per suite booked using the booking code CLIA2018 and Azamara Club Cruises offering a $500 onboard credit per stateroom on select voyages booked before the end of October.
Although this is a one-month marketing campaign, it does not have to be confined to a single month. Travel agencies can devise their own #ChooseCruise promotions and marketing ideas throughout the year. And, now is the time to put together your 2019 marketing ideas. Here are a couple of ideas to kick off your planning.
Reach out to your best cruise clients, and ask them for input on ways to reach out to new and experienced cruisers. Don’t assume that you know what they want. Ask them. You may be surprised at the answers.
Contact the BDMs with the cruise lines that you want to focus on next year. Business Development Managers, Strategic Account Managers, etc. all have the same general focus: to help agencies in their territories increase their sales. Outside of marketing tools you can get from CLIA, your cruise line BDMs can provide an arsenal of marketing help throughout the year. Sit down with your BDMS between now and the end of 2018 and strategize how your will increase your cruise sales with them in 2019.
Take advantage of the cruise sales that you can set up with them. Schedule monthly or quarterly cruise nights to highlight a particular itinerary or destination. Block group space on select sailings that you want to promote. Talk to your BDMs about co-op for consumer shows, sponsoring holes-in-one, doing direct marketing postcard campaigns, etc. Have them help you target meetings and incentive opportunities in your area. Work with them on building your group business. BDMs are a wealth of information and are eager to help agencies increase their sales. Use this to your advantage.
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.