The Caribbean has always been one of the most popular destinations since the dawn of leisure cruising.
River cruising has now expanded beyond Europe and into the rivers of the world.
Bucket list destinations are now served by a growing list of expedition lines.
Your local BDM can provide valuable tools such as training and marketing ideas. Pictured here is Traci Farden of Azamara
Cruising is the one mode of travel that can take travellers to all corners of the globe. Whether it is a vast ocean, great lake, a winding river, or even a sea of ice, a ship can navigate it and bring travellers to unique, varied or otherwise unreachable destinations. As cruise sellers, it certainly is a blessing to be able to offer our customers endless choices.
When cruising was first established as a form of leisure travel, the most popular destinations were the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Alaska. Today these still draw the lion's share of the bookings, but over the last decade and even within the last 5 years, so many new destinations have become prevalent.
Asia, South Pacific, the Middle East and Africa have all become popular as travellers look to more exotic lands. South America, the Antarctic and the Arctic Circle are now on everyone's bucket list, served by a growing number of expedition cruise lines. This month, all eyes are on the Crystal Serenity as she transits the Northwest Passage - the first large non-expedition vessel to sail these waters. And of course, world cruises allow travellers to hit almost all 7 continents in one trip.
River cruising has also expanded into previously uncharted waters. Vietnam & Cambodia can now be explored along the Mekong, as can Myanmar via the Irrawaddy - and the Ganges is the newest it-river. River ships are also plying the waters of the Peruvian Amazon, Africa's Chobe and even in remote Kalimantan - the Indonesian state on Borneo.
While the vast selection of cruise options is certainly a delight to travellers, it also comes with a challenge for cruise sellers. As consumers are becoming more tech and research savvy, they become more demanding, and competition is fierce. In order to stay afloat(pun intended), agents need to be on top of their game with product & destination knowledge. Here are some tips I'd like to share.
First of all, brush up on your geography. It can be as simple as taking a world map and highlighting all of the areas that cruise and river ships sail to. Do this exercise and first of all you'll be surprised at just how extensive cruising can be; and secondly, the map will act as a handy visual resource you can refer to when your clients ask you about cruising to a particular part of the world, continent or a specific country. Learn about each major cruise destination - why do people travel there, what are the typical itineraries and where are the main ports of call.
Next, learn about the cruise lines. This may be a daunting task to the uninitiated, as there are currently no less than 20 mainstream ocean, 9 river and 10 expedition cruise lines catering to the North American market. But as the saying goes, we cannot be everything to everybody. The answer is to choose and focus on a list of preferred cruise lines. If your agency belongs to a consortium or franchise, you may already have such a list. Otherwise, choose a selection of brands that suits your client demographic. Many of the large cruise lines sail globally, and almost all river cruise lines have itineraries on the same rivers.
Make sure your portfolio includes brands of different experience levels and budget. A mix of mass market, premium and luxury cruise lines that serve the world's major cruise destinations will allow you to offer options to clients depending on their taste. Follow these steps and you will find yourself with just 5 or 6 brands to really bone up on. Now isn't that much better than trying to learn about 30+?
Lastly learn about the promotional tools and marketing options available with your chosen brands. This is where your BDM can help tremendously; so, get to know him or her. You can get help with training, marketing strategies, consumer events, and co-op dollars. While some BDMs cover vast territories(especially in Western Canada), if you make an effort to engage them and ask for help, they will make time for you, as they are eager to help you grow your business - and theirs.
Ming Tappin is a cruise veteran with over 20 years’ experience in the industry and has sailed on 38 cruises and counting. Based in Vancouver, Ming is Owner of www.yourcruisecoach.com.