Peter Shanks, Managing Director – UK, Ireland and Middle East, Silversea
We’re only just getting started. Although the UK cruise industry hit the heights of two million cruisers last year – that is just scratching the surface of the nearly 30 million Brits who go overseas on holiday every year.
There are more ships on order now than at any time before – in all shapes and sizes from ocean to river, from big to small and from lively to luxury. That is such brilliant news for travel agents. Cruise line marketing is pretty simple really. We all have fabulous ships going to amazing places and we have two tasks to focus on. Firstly, to make sure that guests have a wonderful time, which they pretty much always do, so that they come back to their travel agent to book another one.
Secondly – and this is the harder bit – to find guests who are new to cruising. It’s in this second area that the opportunity really lies for travel agents. Less than 10% of overseas holidaymakers are going on a cruise today – so therein lies the opportunity in the other 90%. Not all will want to cruise and not all will be able to afford a cruise, but those that love luxury holidays, love touring long haul destinations across Asia, Australia, Africa and North America – and are adventurous and curious travellers, then they are all in the market for an ocean or river cruise – they just don’t know it yet. And at the top of the range – there is the opportunity of an expedition cruise – to Galapagos, Antarctica – or one of the many places that I did not know were places!
We see a growing number of travel agents turning to cruise, especially if they are already experts in the luxury end of the market and have a really strong following already. They have all the skills and expertise that have made them successful today – they have just decided to work with cruise lines to learn all about their products, get all the support they need – and then the clever bit lies in presenting these new holiday ideas to their existing guests. Their valued guests are open to the idea of a cruise – and so many of their friends are now taking the plunge – they just need a little bit of that magic travel agent persuasion.
There is one last very important opportunity that travel agents will never forget – profitability. I have been lucky in my career to lead Going Places at a time when they were flying, and I have also led two great cruise brands in the UK in Cunard Line and Silversea. Through my experience in both retail and in cruise – I have not seen, and don’t think I ever will see, a more profitable partnership between principal and retailer than in the cruise sector. So I would encourage those agents who have yet to take the plunge to take that plunge, and those that have already succeeded to do even more as the guaranteed growth comes our way.
That’s why you may want to consider coming along to ABTA’s New Markets in Cruise conference – and I look forward to seeing you there.
To find out more about the event, see the confirmed speaker line-up so far and register visit abta.com/abtaevents
There are a limited number of places available for ABTA Member travel agents. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to apply.