How to attract new-to-cruise customers

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The cruise industry’s brightest minds tell us how to attract new-to-cruise customers

The UK cruise industry is an exciting place – you only have to take a look at the numbers. About two million British passengers took a cruise last year (if you include non-Clia members). However, about two-thirds of those two million passengers are repeat customers. Add to this picture the fact that just one in nine package holidays booked in the UK is a cruise and you will see that the potential for growth is huge.

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But how do you tap into the lucrative new-to-cruise market? Some of the best advice we’ve heard has ranged from get your clients on to a mini-cruise first to let them dip their toe in the water to take a cruise with plenty of ports of call so that they don’t fear being “trapped” on a ship for their entire holiday.

However, for agents, it’s all about getting the right person on the right cruise. Use your sales experience to ask the right questions: where do they want to go? What do they want to get out of their holiday? Who is travelling? Which companies have they travelled with before?

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Use that information. Not only to recommend a cruise line, but also to recommend a time of year, an itinerary and a ship. There are a whole host of variables and, while there is no easy way to learn about them all, there are tricks to help you get there faster.

The most obvious way is to specialise in an area and understand it inside out. Whether that’s the river sector, luxury, family or even expedition. Which of these do you think is most relevant to your customer base? Where do you think you could see the most conversions? However, whether your bread and butter is resort-style family holidays, lakes and mountains or breaks for adventurous millennials there are a number of different types of cruise to specialise in. If you want to specialise in family style holidays, what ships have what amenities? Which company has the best kids’ facilities. What about dining? Are there child-friendly shore excursions? Use websites like Cruise Critic to see what other past cruise passengers have said. If you get the chance to have a look around a ship then do – if you can sail then all the better.

Once you’ve identified the corner of the market that most applies to your speciality then you can start to dig deeper. Does your agency have a Clia membership? Are you part of a consortia or homeworking network? Is there a person somewhere, either within your organisation or in the surrounding support network, who can get you started on the best companies to research?

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After that it’s time to train. Clia offers fantastic resources for those looking to get to grips with the industry, while individual cruise lines also have their own on-the-road teams who can get out to stores around the country and answer all of the questions you might have. Those resources are all available and designed to help you – no matter what stage of the learning process you’re at – so don’t feel like you’re beyond them, or not at that stage yet – they can always be tailored accordingly.

The key to cracking the new-to- cruise sector, whether you want to specialise in one corner of the market or the entire cruise industry, is to become an expert. Our point is there are different levels of expertise – you don’t need to be all things to all people.

Once you know what you’re talking about, you’ll be able to get people over those infamous misconceptions about cruise. From there on in it’s plain sailing.

Sam Ballard

Sam Ballard is the publisher of CRUISE ADVISER and has been writing about the cruise industry for a number of years. His CV includes the likes of shipping magazine International Cruise & Ferry Review and the digital publication Cruise News. He can be contacted on:sam@cruise-adviser.com.

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