Riding the Wave: Travel Advisors Hang On as Cruise Sales Soar | Travel Research Online


Riding the Wave: Travel Advisors Hang On as Cruise Sales Soar

From small towns and big cities, headed down the Mississippi or up the Mekong, would-be travelers are lining up to book trips this month. Travel advisors who are new to the industry are thrilled with their choice of career—but even many seasoned experts are calling this their best year ever.

It’s not your usual Wave Season for sure.

I booked my family vacation on Norwegian Joy this week with the help of my friend Gary Smith—and I have to admit, I know he did me a favor by letting me usurp his time to book seven balconies when he is swamped with work.

This is my first Wave Season and now I know what everyone has been talking about!,” says Heather Snyder-Edridge at Bon Vivant Escapes by Dream Vacations. “Everyone wants multi-city Europe and I am currently working 12-16 hour days! It is hard to keep up but I am doing it and loving it!!”

Wave season is epic! I opened in February 2020, so I got a small taste last year but NOTHING like this year,” says Dawn Nowlan of Nowlan Travel by Dream Vacations. “Like many others, working 12+ hours a day, seven days a week. Up 200% year over year. Availability is keeping it from being even higher… especially for Spring Break travel.”

Super busy, availability very limited. Clients booking close in. One thing that has changed for us is that many clients that usually book land packages and all inclusives for spring break and summer vacation, are now bookings in cruises instead. We’re definitely booking more cruise vacations and cruise groups than ever before,” says Susan Berman.

For a small town agency, we are blowing up the cruise sales like never before. Since we are a short drive to Galveston, cruises are a slam dunk!,” says Gregg Welpe of Travel Dreams, “celebrating 36 years as a storefront agency in Greenville, Texas, population 29, 578!”

Best January in over 20 years,” agrees Keith Goodwin of Duane and Keith Goodwin CruiseOne. “Up over 500% since January 2019, with roughly two weeks to go. Hoping the great month continues—and the wave continues over the next several months and all of 2023. After the dire times during the pandemic, it is nice to know that travel is back.”

My best month in my entire career so far! Sheesh! Almost half a million already!!!,” says Iris Martin at Surreal Journeys Travel in Fayetteville, NC.

On Vicki Freed’s Coffee Talk this week, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley said the company “has been having record booking day after record booking day period Last week was the biggest booking week in the history of our business. It was absolutely unbelievable. And it just seems to be getting better and better.”

MSC Cruises USA EVP Lynn Torrent agreed, “2023 is off to an incredibly strong start on bookings, and that’s largely thanks to our awesome travel advisors. We’re seeing them post record numbers in many cases, which we expect to continue as they capitalize on demand throughout WAVE Season.”

Coping. Or Not.

Some are taking a little well-deserved credit for what they and their partners did to get to this point.

Wave Season 2023 is better than I could’ve imagined,” says Sherrie Thomas at Global Gifts Travel in the Washington, DC, area. “Pre-planning and hosting two cruise nights helped tremendously! My clients were able to take advantage of a minimum of $400 and up to $800 in bar tabs and onboard credits compliments of Virgin Voyage. I was able to book more than 30 cabins in a seven-day span and exceeded my first-quarter sales goal!

River cruises are selling. I filled a 2024 group in two days after a Zoom call with the group and my BDM. Take advantage of this for cruise groups!” says Helen Prochilo of Promal Vacations in Long Beach, NY.

But others are just feeling the stress.

Tons of last-minute spring break trips and cruises. I’m going out of my mind,” says Kelly Ortiz at Guru Travel. “I’m beyond thankful for the business, just a little stressed. It’s very hard to keep up. I’m thinking about pausing incoming business for at least a week.”

Working seven days a week, 12-14 hours days, breaking all records and very stressed. Clients are shell-shocked at the higher rates, availability is very tight, and suppliers taking longer to answer phones (which is understandable). It is great for business but bad for our health,” says MaryAnn Fusco of MSW Travel in Goodyear, AZ.

Daniela Harrison Hosts a Packed Explora Journeys Cruise Night at Avenues of the World Travel

Coping Mechanisms On the Rise

The smartest travel advisors, of course, are coming up with ideas old and new to survive.

Our busiest season ever. We’ve grown our team larger than it’s ever been, and we’re officially putting clients on a week-out wait list because all of the agents are maxed out. Grateful, but so busy!” says Jay Dill of The Travel Junkie, Wichita, KS. “We just can’t say yes to anymore until we service what we have.”

OMGeeee it is NUTS!” says Diane Frisch at Diane Frisch Destinations, LLC, in Dallas. “I have never had this much business come in all at once, and it is almost all my ideal clients (big luxury trips to Europe, Galapagos, and Africa). I am handing off to other agents because there are too many.”

At Travel Leaders in Wisconsin, Lynn Clark, too, is busy with 5-10 new leads a day from TL Profiler plus her regulars—and also referring “anything that is not in our wheelhouse” to other agencies in the TL network. Also new this year, she is charging all fees upfront vs. at the time of deposit.

At Kiel Travel In Birmingham AL, Kimberly Kiel is trying something new. “I am having so many requests for the same thing that I am working in batches; I am having Italy days, Greece days, etc. I also am doing my tasks in batches—research a bunch in one sitting, block out a time to just book hotels or pay deposits, etc. I find I am less all over the place if I bunch like things together. It is not perfect but it seems to be working for now!”

With her cruise requests “exploding,” and because “there is much more to the typical cruise booking for much less commission, compared to an equivalent all-inclusive resort, All Points Travel in Salt Lake City, UT, has added a $50 booking fee on all cruise requests, says Corina Johnson.

Erin Stennett is taking breaks to do yard work; “blowing leaves is my therapy,” she says. Janet Harris of Dream Vacations MJ Harris & Crew in Indianapolis is working remotely from Puerto Vallarta. And Linda Allen of the Abundant Life Traveler closed her laptop the other night after a 14-hour day, ran a warm bubble bath in her jacuzzi and poured herself a glass of wine.

Taking care of myself is greatly needed during this crazy Wave season,” she says.

A few more comments, because I can’t get enough of these happy stories:

Amazing Wave season with explosive business growth. On track to beat my entire first quarter of 2019 this month alone.” — C. T. “Russ” Russel at Cruise Planners.

Best Wave Season in 11 years, up 250% two weeks in and working seven days a week.” — Trapper Martin of Trapper Martin, Shane Smartt & Associates Dream Vacations.

“Record breaking and it started before the holidays. Working seven days a week and 16-hour days. Very grateful.” — Estelle Wilkinson, Wanna Get Away Travel, Scottsdale, AZ.

Set my goal for the month in my CRM higher than last year’s, and I have already surpassed it. Time to up the monthly goal! And it’s only January 17th!” — Emily Bookey, Emily’s Travel Inc.  

I’m almost double my monthly goal!!” – Jami Turner

Unbelievably good! We are super busy!! It’s a record month already and only half over. Working long hours and weekends, but the bookings are worth it – lots of luxury and river cruise bookings.” — Amy Madson, Madson & Associates Dream Vacations

We are breaking records weekly. All hands on deck and bookings are at their highest APD. We are now booking through 2025 with some clients looking for last-minute deals. We warned them last year that the rates were climbing. Seems to be a continuing trend.” – Mara Hargarther, Dream Vacations, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

Cheryl Rosen on cruise

Cheryl’s 40-year career in journalism is bookended by roles in the travel industry, including Executive Editor of Business Travel News in the 1990s, and recently, Editor in Chief of Travel Market Report and admin of Cheryl Rosen’s Group for Travel Professionals, a news and support group on Facebook. As an independent contractor since retiring from the 9-to-5 to travel more, she has written regular articles about the life and business of travel agents for Luxury Travel Advisor, Travel Agent, and Insider Travel Report. She also writes and edits for professional publications in the financial services, business, and technology sectors.

  One thought on “Riding the Wave: Travel Advisors Hang On as Cruise Sales Soar

  1. Danadain says:

    This is exciting to see and I am looking forward to the increase in sales for my travel business as well! I am so happy to hear that we travel agents have survived the mayhem of 2020!

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