Turning Cruise Clients Into Investments

by Ming Tappin

1993 Islands magazine cover that inspired me to travel to Bora Bora.

The Pyramids of Giza were on my to-do list.

Relaxing on a sunny beach in the Caribbean - always a great reason to cruise!

Where will your clients go next? Find out and make it happen

Travel agencies are always striving to get new clients. Although it is a necessity for continuous growth, the most successful agencies must focus on repeat customers.

I like to call the best type of clients "Annuities". Just like a wisely chosen investment, they generate income for you on a regular basis without much maintenance.

Some of you may be lucky to have Annuities - clients those who come with brochure and credit card in hand saying, “This is what we want; book us!". Or the ones who book a future cruise while on board, automatically crediting the booking back to you.

But that doesn't always happen. Most of the time, agents have to work hard at getting the business.

The key is to discover what inspires your clients to cruise. Everyone has a reason - whether it is to rest and recharge; spend time with family and friends; celebrate a major achievement and of course, there's the “bucket list".

I clearly remember the 1st time I was inspired to travel somewhere specific. The year was 1993, I was living in Toronto at the time, before I was in the travel industry. Downstairs from my office was a bookstore and during one lunch break, I was perusing the magazine stands when I came across a captivating image. It was an issue of Islands, featuring Bora Bora on the cover.

The emerald green peaks of Mt. Otemanu rising from the surrounding turquoise lagoon was unlike anything I had ever seen. I had no idea where Bora Bora was at the time, but one look and I knew I had to go there one day.

It took 8 years before I got to Tahiti, sailing on the Paul Gauguin. Of course I booked an extension on my dream island, in an over-water bungalow that was worth the splurge. Today that Islands magazine still sits on my bookshelf as one of my prized possessions.

My point being, most people will develop a desire to travel somewhere because the destination resonates with them, or has a significant meaning in their lives. Ask anyone you know and they will have no problems listing a number of places on their wish list to visit.

And there lies your chance to get those repeat bookings.

Of course most bookings don't happen overnight. But, if all you do is plant the seed and take good care to nurture it, you will reap the harvest in good time. This means you must engage your clients to discover their wish list. Find out their upcoming milestones, celebratory events and their dream cruise.

Once you uncover this inspiration, stay in contact, especially if the cruise is not in the immediate future. A birthday or anniversary card once a year simply isn't enough. Send little reminders to your clients to keep that cruise top of mind. It could be an article about the destination, cruise line or ship. Something that says: "I saw this and thought of you".

Your goal is to be the person they remember, and the one they come to when they are ready. Follow these steps time and time again, and your client portfolio will become a wealth of annuities.

Ming Tappin is a cruise veteran with 20 years' experience in the industry and has sailed on 35 cruises and counting. Based in Vancouver, Ming is passionate about cruising and is always looking forward to her next adventure.

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