“Green Shoots Of Business”: Celebrity Shares Canadian Market Trends
Anna Kroupina, Open Jaw
In a recent webinar exclusively for Canadian travel advisors, Celebrity Cruises shared sales trends which include signs of a solid rebound in all markets, despite the onslaught of negative media.
The webinar was hosted by Allan Brooks, Director of Sales, Canada along Dondra Ritzenthaler, Senior V.P. of Sales, Keith Lane, V.P. of Sales for North America and Ron Gulaskey, Associate V.P., National Account Sales.
“The pick-up in sales should be great news for Canadian agents. If we're starting to see that, you'll start seeing it as well," Ritzenthaler told agents.
Gulaskey added: "You see all the negative comments in the news about cruising -- that's coming from the non-cruisers, not the cruisers. If it's a cruiser, they get that what they see on TV is not the reality." In fact, 88% of Canadian bookings are coming from loyalty members.
"We really believe that now is the time to start planning intensely. There was a pause period and we believe we're beyond that. We're seeing nice green shoots of business" Lane said. "We are encouraging you to not just wait and deal with the cancellations, but to actually make outbound calls."
Here are some Canada-specific booking trends shared by the Celebrity team:
Canada’s largest population centres,Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto, account for two-thirds of business currently.
The Caribbean represents 80% of new sales for 2020 cruises, while Europe and Alaska are leading for 2021/22.
Concerning demographics, the Celebrity team saysfamilies, deal seekers and the Captain's Club, which had a 20% increase in Canadian bookings, are showing the strongest activity.
The40 to 59 age groupis showing the strongest interest. Ritzenthaler said this age category tends to spend the most onboard, and recommended agents pursue sales in this demographic as travel begins to rebound.
As for stateroom categories, it's the upper inventory – Verandas and above -- that Canadians are booking. When compared to inventory sold over the last six weeks with 2019 figures, the lower inventory is under performing.
Overall, Ritzenthaler pointed out that Celebrity is seeing more bookings than cancellations right now.
“Crawl, Walk, Run”: Ritzenthaler Provides Road Map For Agents
"We've all sat back and been on our heels a little bit but now, you should really start to look in that forward windshield and stop looking in rear view mirror," Ritzenthaler told agents on the call.
"To be honest, the entire cruise industry took some heat, maybe unfairly so, but it's time to stop thinking about that because now it's time to start looking forward."
Encouraging the trade to gradually get back to a "sales" frame of mind, Ritzenthaler shared a "crawl, walk, run" analogy to getting back to selling cruising with a measured approach.
"Right now, I want you to be incrawlmode," she said. During this phase, Dondra recommends focussing on the most responsive demographic - existing cruisers aged 40 to 59 - reaching out with "social media, make personal phone calls, write personalized notes to your customers, help them service their Future Cruise Certificates."
Ritzenthaler continues by saying it's "almost" time to enter thewalkphase where agents should expand their reach to include the enormous opportunity reflected in 16% of Canadian sales being veranda and above. As Rizenthaler says: “that’s huge." In addition, focus should be on deal seekers and families “who have been stuck at home together and are ready to get out."
When it come to "run", Ritzenthaler said: "You have to get back into full-fledged mode, ask for referrals, do emails, do direct mail, leverage your host, do things you did in the past. But what's really key is you do it with a plan - a written down plan. We call that ‘hoist your sales'."
The Big Questions
For its part, Celebrity has identified three main concerns the company needs to address -- health & safety, a great offer, and details on when and where ships will resume service -- in order to get clients booking.
"We want you to know that those are also our biggest questions that we are working very feverishly on them. We are very close to announcing a promotion," Lane said.
Health & Safety
Health and safety measures include enhanced sanitization protocols, new technologies, touchless cruising, health and infectious disease accreditation and more.
"We've done the analysis. We've got a pulse on what people are thinking and saying. Our goal is to make our ships the safest place to vacation on the planet. Were doing a lot of data-driven planning, prevention, intense sanitization protocols but when you hear us say that, it will not interfere with guest experience onboard," said Lane.
Return To Service
Ritzenthaler said she is "very confident" that the company will announce a conclusive return-to-service date in the next "three to four weeks." The cruise line is working with CLIA, the U.S. CDC and other industry bodies to gain the necessary approvals to resume operations.
When Celebrity Cruises does start sailing again, Ritzenthaler warned agents it won't be a "lightswitch approach" where all operations resume to normal on a single day. "We're going to stagger coming back and we won't go to 100% capacity right away," she said, adding that she expects Celebrity to be at normal capacity by "March, April or May next year."
A Great Offer
Celebrity Cruises has been testing the waters with smaller offers such as the Dream Big Sale earlier this month, which Ritzenthaler described as "wildly successful".
Today, Celebrity launched its second Dream Big promotion, running through 18MAY, with savings of up to $400 and perks for your clients.
But the “great comeback offer", which Lane refers to as the third component the company needs to address, is still to come.
"Expect to see another sale when we're back in service. It'll be the best deal ever!" added Ritzenthaler.
Anna Kroupina Journalist
Anna is OJ's newest member and she joins the team as a writer/reporter. She co-writes the daily news and covers events. Although she's new to the industry, pursuing a career path in travel/tourism has been a goal since her first family road trip to the Florida Keys sparked a desire to discover the world and this exhilarating, fast-paced industry.