An Air of Optimism, A Call To Arms

by Vanessa Lee

With the dawn of a new year I have very happily noticed a certain air of optimism in our business.

Usually‎ I can "smell" the lay of the land, and perhaps over 30-plus years of ‘Wave Seasons’ -- which have changed a lot and sometimes never really arrive or come quite late -- I feel I have the ability (the Spidey-sense?) to “sniff out” intangible changes. And I have felt the "sea change" in the last 3 to 4 weeks. Which is good news everyone! Trust me……..

Business appears to be good. Yes, indeed. And the terrific and positive ‘state of the union’ news from Royal Caribbean this week seems to back up that old “sixth sense” of mine. It appears the market is buoyant and cruisers are booking and keen to sail. Prices are up, deals are there and the retail industry seems focused. We can only hope that nothing will distract or detract us.

The long-fought election (can you BELIEVE this!) in the U.S. is finally over. Who knows what will come next but I trust we will have a period of time during which people will focus on their vacations and not the crazy political situation. As we know, when the U.S. gets the flu, Canada gets a cold.

My hope, and it’s a sincere one, is that we can level out the marketplace, that those who wish to travel anywhere in the world can do so and feel safe and that prices can be at reasonable levels for a fantastic cruise product.

Whatever the prospective client might be interested in, let there be space – but not too much! Let there be deals to entice, but not too many. May there be sold-out dates to encourage earlier bookings. And most of all may we finally turn the tide back to our favour.

Which brings me to my next point. Having just had a presidential inauguration of the weirdest kind, it made me think of JFK’s address in 1960. A line we all know and love comes to mind: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” It’s a wonderful expression that still resonates 56 years later.

I would like to take the sensibility of this line, and with all due respect, change it to the following: “Ask not what your cruise lines can do for you but what you can do and bring to your preferred cruise line partners.” 

Allow me to explain my thinking here. The tide needs to turn – you, the retail travel professional, must be more supportive of cruise lines by making a major effort to find and book “NEW TO CRUISE GUESTS.”

We need to find these new cruisers. They are literally all around us – waiting to be asked to consider a cruise. The cruise industry is doing its part -- constantly innovating, emerging with better and better vacation experiences and we need to be supportive of these initiatives.

And there’s opportunity galore, because only a small percentage of the population has actually taken a cruise.

If you and your agency makes a concentrated and determined marketing and sales effort to focus more on cruise sales – to offer cruises to practically any purchaser that might consider such a vacation, then the odds are with you.

As Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”  Think about that. Another sports analogy – a great baseball batter has about a .300 average – maybe .330 to .350 if they’re really on fire. Which means they strike out about two thirds of the time. But they go up to bat, they swing and frequently they get on base. Sometimes they hit a home run or a grand slam – which to me might mean a world cruise. But they swing and they try and sooner or later they connect.

We have to do more to increase new to cruise sales. Consider better marketing approaches and ones that will attract the vacationer who is prepared to go to sea and try one of the many ships out there – whether they be mainstream, contemporary, premium, upscale, luxury, river, niche, expedition or laid back and casual.

Yes there is a cruise for practically everyone. So during this Wave season let’s get out there and return the favour to our cruise line partners who never stop reinventing their brands and who support us every day in so many ways. 

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