Interview: Celebrity Cruises shows love for agents this Valentine’s Day

Interview: Celebrity Cruises shows love for agents this Valentine’s Day

Claire Stirrup, director of sales, UK & Ireland at Celebrity Cruises and Trudie Clements, director at ABTA Lifeline, speak to Janine Kelso about the cruise line’s generous donation and how it will help travel agents.

Celebrity Cruises generously donated £10,000 to ABTA Lifeline – the charity of ABTA – last month as part of their Celebrity Loves Agents campaign.

Claire Stirrup, director of sales, UK & Ireland at Celebrity Cruises, says that the cruise line made the donation to “pay the goodwill forward” and to show how “incredibly grateful” they are to “our amazing travel partners who have helped us made a success of our safe return to water in the last 12 months”.

The cruise line also made a further £1 donation for every agent booking made on a Celebrity cruise in January.

Speaking exclusively to Cruise Adviser, Stirrup says: “The campaign was designed to pay the goodwill forward and ensure that the team at ABTA Lifeline can continue their incredibly important work supporting those in the industry who have fallen on tougher times. Celebrity Cruises is incredibly grateful to all of our amazing travel partners who have helped us make a success of our safe return to water in the last 12 months. We couldn’t have got where we are today without them. We’ve seen such a positive response to the campaign which was designed to give agents a helping hand in what has been a really tough time for the industry.”

Charity support

Set up in 1988, ABTA Lifeline provides “the practical, emotional and financial support to people in our community who are really struggling”, explains director Trudie Clements.

Clements says the charity was “absolutely delighted” with Celebrity’s donation.

“The primary focus of our support is with travel agents who have been severely impacted by the pandemic. It was absolutely brilliant to start off the new year with a £10,000 donation.”

The charity has been “flat out” since Thomas Cook collapsed in 2019, a year in which they gave out a whopping £200,000 in food vouchers in a six-week period.

And then when the pandemic hit in 2020, some of the travel industry “got hit twice”.

“It’s been a very busy two years and the charity has done what it can to support agents and other travel professionals in that time,” explains Clements.

ABTA Lifeline help agents with financial management by offering a debt, benefits and housing support service through its partner Citizens Advice.

The charity also offer crisis loans to help people pay priority bills, including rent, mortgage, council tax and utilities, as well as giving out food vouchers.

“The stress of providing food is significant for some agents. We have a high proportion of single parent families. As soon as they were hit with the pandemic, there were job losses, redundancies, furlough and a reduction in income. It had a huge impact on them – by giving them a food voucher frees up cash to go into other priority bills.”

The charity has helped provide financial support to travel agents with everything from buying white goods to helping with funeral costs. “Our lifeline really does stretch far and wide,” says Clements.

“We also provide counselling support for business owners worrying about their businesses collapsing, and agents struggling with loss of self-worth and relationship breakdown. Our support has been really extensive and it doesn’t stop there.”

She added: “Yesterday, we were buying goods for someone with an autistic child who is struggling financially and needs new beds. We’re very diverse in what we do and we try to tailor our support to the individual.”

Clements said that Celebrity’s donation will “go into continuing to provide the services we offer and in particular, focus a little bit more on the mental health support that we’re providing. We’re setting up a mental health champion network and looking at how we can fund training for mental health first aid champions in our industry so we can offer that peer-to-peer support. Sometimes people don’t want that full counselling support; they just want to pick up the phone and talk to somebody.”

Trade incentives

Celebrity’s recognition for agents doesn’t end with their generous charity donation. The brand are continuing to show their support with other aspects of their Celebrity Loves Agents campaign.

“’Celebrity Loves Agents’ has been our hashtag for a few years now and never has a truer word been spoken about how much we mean that. Celebrity Loves Agents is here to stay,” says Stirrup.

Celebrity recently announced the 100 travel agent winners of its Celebrity Moments campaign who shared cash prizes totalling £25,000.

Still up for grabs are 100 spaces on Celebrity Beyond for top selling agents.

And new for this month is the line’s Race to Beyond competition where 20 agents can win a spot on Celebrity Beyond on an exclusive trade sailing from Southampton in April. Agents who make a Celebrity Cruises booking this month (February) on any 2022 sailing will automatically be entered into the draw.

Ongoing incentives include the line’s Celebrity Rewards programme where agents can earn £10 for every booking on a balcony and concierge stateroom and £25 for each booking in The Retreat.

And in a first for the cruise industry, agents can choose to redeem their points on a luxury gift for their clients, which Stirrup suggests could be “a chilled bottle of champagne, a celebration cake or even a cute teddy bear as a surprise for children”. Alternatively, agents can redeem points to treat themselves.

Cruise trends for 2022

It’s an exciting year ahead for Celebrity with the line’s Celebrity Beyond making its much-anticipated maiden voyage from Southampton at the end of April before heading to the Med for its summer season.

“The third ship in our Edge series, Celebrity Beyond is longer, taller and has a sleeker profile than the other two ships. We’ve taken the Retreat to another level by expanding the sundeck by 40-per-cent; I can’t wait to see that. The Sunset Bar is 180-per-cent larger; there’s nothing like sitting on that sunset bar with a gin and tonic or a cocktail while sailing away from one of our ports of call,” says Stirrup.

Speaking on travel trends, Stirrup has seen a surge in multi-generational trips for families keen to make up for “all those celebrations being missed”.

European sailings out of Rome and Barcelona have also been performing well thanks to Celebrity’s free flights to Europe offer.

“We’re seeing lots of bucket-list holidays, especially for people who have had a special birthday or anniversary. And people are now booking the Caribbean for Christmas as something to look forward to.”

Celebrity has just launched sailings to The Galapagos for 2024, which are now on sale.

And with Australia lifting its restrictions, Stirrup has seen holidaymakers start to book its voyages out of the country onboard Celebrity Edge.

“The world is opening up which is exciting for us as an industry and for us as travellers,” says Stirrup.

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