A New Era For Holland America

with Ming Tappin

Ming with HAL’s Tom Steer & Tami Normann who hosted travel agents in Vancouver.

Tami Normann bringing the group up to speed with the latest on HAL.

(l to r)Victoria Buhler, Expedia CruiseShipCenters; Michelle Quarrie & Jason Zhang, Flight Centre.

(l to r)Erin Packard & BeeBee Prangchan, Unigloe Travel Western Canada; Jessie Stevens, Uniglobe Specialty Travel.

Holland America conducted training in BC over the last few weeks and at the YVR session I attended, Tami Normann and Tom Steer, Business Development Managers for Western Canada, hosted approximately 80 agents for breakfast to get the latest updates on HAL.

The message is clear - Holland America is revamping its image. The cruise line has always been associated with senior cruisers and even when I spoke to the agents present, the subject of client age still came up. Victoria Buhler of Expedia CruiseShipCenters says HAL is making the right move to attract a younger, more active guest to their ships to remove the stigma that they are only for the oldies. Carla Nordin of WD World Travel Ltd agrees that HAL must stay relevant in today's world, and that means appealing to a multi-generational clientele. 

And, things definitely seem to be moving in the right direction. 10 years ago the average age of a HAL guest was 69, now it’s 60. While HAL says demographics aren’t always about age but rather it is about the traveller's preferences and lifestyle choices, the new enhancements and financial investments ($300M to be spent between 2016-18 on ship refurbishments) reflect their ambition to woo a younger clientele.

This is most evident in their newbuild Koningsdam, debuting next April. My 1st reaction upon seeing the artist renditions of the ship is, "This is not your grandmother's Holland America Line!" Gone are the dark wall panelling and upholstery, replaced by contemporary furnishings, light and airy decor.

The onboard offerings are certainly being kicked up a notch - not just on the Koningsdam but to be expanded to the rest of the fleet. Jason Zhang of Flight Centre loves the new partnerships with BB King Blues Club, Billboard Onboard, Lincoln Center Stage, BBC Earth and more. He says the line will appeal to his clients who look for cruises offering innovative onboard experiences instead of the typical floor shows and lectures. Michelle Quarrie, also of Flight Centre, says HAL's strengths lie in the classic onboard quality and now will also be steps ahead with its modern aesthetics and entertainment features. 

One final takeaway from Tami - clients who buy premium or luxury products are loyal to the salesperson they purchase from. Pair this with the statistic that on any given sailing, 45% of HAL's guests are Mariners. Agents need to be on top of their HAL knowledge, so that they can serve them well and keep them as repeat customers.

Holland America has been plying the oceans for over 140 years providing classic style and timeless elegance to its guests. With these new partnerships and innovations, they are certainly setting sail for many more successful years to come. 

Ming Tappin is a cruise veteran with over 20 years’ experience in the industry and has sailed on 36 cruises and counting. Based in Vancouver, Ming is Owner of  www.yourcruisecoach.com

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