We speak to Clia’s Andy Harmer and Giles Hawke about the Plan a Cruise Month initiative, which aims to focus attention on the industry
There are few initiatives that Clia UK has pushed as successfully as Plan a Cruise Month. The programme, which started in 2008, has grown in terms of both the time covered (it started as just a week) and the regions that take part (it is now global). The idea is to get as many people talking about cruise as possible and use that attention to help agents boost sales. Clia then helps its members make the most out of the sales drive through social media campaigns, events and sales tools. We spoke to Andy Harmer, SVP membership & director of UK & Ireland, and Giles Hawke, Clia deputy chairman, to find out more.
Cruise Adviser: What exactly is Plan a Cruise Month?
Giles Hawke: Plan a Cruise Month is an opportunity for the travel industry – and by that we mean cruise lines, travel agents and the media – to focus wholeheartedly on cruise and get that in front of as many potential customers as possible. From a Clia perspective it’s a way of getting travel agents to sell more cruise and adding hooks to help them sell more. It’s also a way to increase visibility for those who aren’t selling cruise – or who are only selling it reactively.
Alongside this we’re also making cruise more visible in the public consciousness through working with media partners and making more noise on social media. What we’re trying to do is to get people who have never considered a cruise before to do so more actively.
Andy Harmer: What the Clia team has done this year is to focus on destinations. So, rather than focus on what happens on the ship, the focus is on the places you can go and visit. We’re breaking that to bite-size chunks so that people can understand the breadth of offering available. It’s not just the Med or the Caribbean.
By focusing on destination we can talk about all of the different types of cruise at the same time.
Will there be any changes this year?
GH: We’ve got a four-week schedule starting on October 2. We start with Europe, which will include everything from Mediterranean and ex-UK to European river cruise. The second week will focus on the Americas, with Alaska, the Caribbean, Transatlantic cruises, Mississippi and then the more expedition type cruising with South America and the tip of Antarctica. Week three will focus on Australasia, which is growing in popularity, although it’s got a long way to go as a lot of people still see it as a holiday of a lifetime. The final week will focus on Asia, which is booming – both as a source market and for Brits wanting to go.
AH: By focusing on destination we can talk about all of the different types of cruise at the same time. Destination is also the main reason why people cruise – it’s one of the points of difference that travel agents can make with guests who have never cruised before.
Plan a cruise month:
Week one: Europe
Week two: Americas
Week three: Australasia
Week four: Asia
Why should agents get behind Plan a Cruise Month?
GH: The financial benefit of selling cruise is the main reason. The average selling price is high and so, therefore, are the commissions. Repeat bookings are also strong. If nothing else, agents should be thinking about their profitability and bottom lines. There will be a huge amount of noise around the industry because this year it will be in every territory. With less effort, they can get on the back of what is happening globally.
What can agents do to get involved?
AH: We’ve tried to make it as easy as possible to get agents involved this year. We’ve sent out selfie boards and have encouraged agents to send us pictures of their own holidays or fam trips. I hope that means we can make some additional noise – while it is difficult for one cruise line or travel agency to make a big impact during Plan a Cruise Month, it is easier if we pull together as an industry.
Where can they go in order to learn more?
AH: We’ve sent out a pack to all of our members and there’s tons of information on our website – cruiseexperts.org – or you can join in on social media by using the hashtag #CruiseMonth.
Plan a cruise month starts on October 2