Report: Advantage cruise conference

Report: Advantage cruise conference

Jeannine Williamson reports from Advantage Travel Partnership’s conference which took place over two days on a mini-cruise onboard P&O Cruises’ Ventura

The unveiling of a new search tool, inspiring speakers, ‘speed dating’, the forecast that “river is the new ocean”, plus time to enjoy life on the ocean wave and ashore were all part of Advantage Travel Partnership’s first-ever cruise conference at sea. One hundred agents and industry delegates set sail for the fifth annual convention, which was held onboard P&O Cruises’ Ventura.

As the ship sailed from Southampton to Bruges, the two-night mini-cruise provided the perfect backdrop for agents to hear about the latest trends. The event was opened by Claire Brighton, senior commercial manager of the UK’s largest independent travel agent group, who presented an overview of the year’s highlights before announcing the ‘big reveal’ to help agents boost sales.

Developed by software specialists Widgety, and exclusive to Advantage members, Cruise Finder enables agents to easily locate the perfect cruise for their clients through search filters including cruise lines, ships, itineraries, cruise length and price. The platform also features a ‘brochure rack’ so customers can browse cruise catalogues online.

Andy Harmer, SVP membership & director, Clia UK & Ireland, spoke about changes in the exciting and ever-evolving cruise industry – including 74 new cruise ships being built over the next 10 years and the number of UK passengers set to top a record two million in 2017.

“Cruise is appealing to a much wider audience than ever before and travel agents are feeling more confident and aware of the different products,” he added.

Commenting on the boom in river cruise he said: “River is the new ocean. A total of 180,000 people from the UK now take a river cruise each year, the same as the number of people who took an ocean cruise 17 years ago. River lines have learned from ocean lines and have started to offer new experiences, including spas, alternative dining and bicycles on board. And expedition cruising is the new river, with lines investing a huge amount of money on new ships and new programmes.”

Other experts included Bruce Martin, from social media agency Ginger Juice, who stressed the importance of engaging clients with quizzes, tips and photos rather than just posting deals on Facebook, Twitter and other virtual communities. Bob Morrell and Jeremy Blake, from Reality Training, shared fascinating psychological selling tips, including 15 ways to close a sale.

Mick Dupont, Crystal Cruises’ head of sales UK & Ireland, praised the event saying: “The conference not only serves to update us all on the latest cruise activity, but also provides the opportunity to meet one-to-one and network with members. Since agents have invested time and money to attend they are enthusiastic to learn more about our products and how we can best support them to increase their cruise business.”

Ponders Travel managing director Clare Dudley said: “I was intrigued to hear that expedition cruise will be a new growth area and will make sure we’re part of that. I gained several good selling techniques for my staff from Reality Training, and most enlightening and valuable was Ginger Juice on social media. I came away with many new ‘must dos’.”

The next day, cruise line partners hosted a ‘speed dating’ networking session followed by the Cruise Partner Awards 2017. The accolades, voted for by Advantage members, saw Celebrity winning Cruise Line of the Year for the second year running, Royal Caribbean taking the Cruise Sales Team of the Year award and Silversea being voted Specialist/Luxury Sales Team of the Year. The Cruise Member of the Year award went to Go Cruise. The conference ended with a Champagne reception followed by a gala dinner.

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