Interview<br>Neil Barclay<br>Viking Cruises

Neil Barclay
Viking Cruises

As many of you may have seen, Viking Cruises has recently launched its own trade-focused magazine, Hei. The title forms part of a wider programme from Viking, aimed at strengthening its ties with travel agents up and down the country. As well as the magazine, there is also a new website ( which allows agents to download brochures, marketing material, enter competitions and complete its brand new ocean training programme.

Neil Barclay
Neil Barclay

What’s more, agents who complete a quiz to find out ‘what kind of agent they are’ can be entered into a competition to win chocolate for their agency for an entire year. We thought that might get your attention…

We visited Viking’s offices in London and sat down with the company’s head of sales, Neil Barclay, to find out a little bit more about the new agent push.

Cruise Adviser: Where did the idea for the magazine come from?
Neil Barclay:
The magazine is a catalyst. We wanted to re-look at the way we spoke to the trade. If you look at the trade advertising that’s out there, it is all quite corporate. There are some great campaigns but with river cruising in particular you typically get a picture of a river ship, a bit of text underneath it and eventually they all start to merge into one. When I was an agent that would not have switched me on.

Cruise Adviser: What has feedback been like following the launch of Hei?
Neil Barclay:
We’ve had some great emails. We had one agent in Scotland who emailed through and said that it was a really bold move and that they loved it, so it’s been great. We have now launched our trade microsite, which has come with new training modules for both our river and ocean programme. We also re-evaluated how we were going to get our message out there – which is how we came up with the magazine.

Cruise Adviser: For people who haven’t seen it can you explain what the magazine is about?
Neil Barclay:
It’s a light-hearted read for the agents and is designed to lie around on desks and in drawers, like a normal magazine. It’s tied up in conjunction with the offers we’re running – and the more bookings an agent makes with us the more offers they will get. We really want it to be as engaging as possible and we’re looking for feedback from the agents who have read it. There are quizzes, interviews and competitions where we’re giving away some great prizes, including a year’s supply of chocolate for an entire agency.

Viking's Made for Trade site
Viking’s Made for Trade site

Cruise Adviser: And where does the microsite link in?
Neil Barclay:
When agents log in to the microsite the first thing they will see is a quiz to find out what type of agent they are – be it a visionary, go-getter, inspirer or nurturer – which is in the magazine too. It is really the centre-point of this entire launch campaign. We’ll be giving the chocolate prize out to ten different agents and it’s not just a box of Malteasers either! That’s the buy-in and how we’re hoping to begin the engagement. Social media is going to be big throughout this whole thing – we have a Spotify playlist (Spotify:user:Viking_cruises_uk) for example where agents can add their own songs, as long as the tracks are river or ocean-themed! We also have The Great Viking Trade-Off which is a competition where we’ll be giving away weekly prizes. The grand prize in December will be an eight-day Danube cruise in December.

Cruise Adviser: What other features does the website have?
Neil Barclay:
Agents are going to be able to request a webinar from the sales guys, download our brochures and merchandise and also complete the online training. Once agents complete the course they will become an Official Viking Expert (OVE) and we will send them a window sticker so that customers know too.

Cruise Adviser: Is there an incentive for agents to become OVEs?
Neil Barclay: We have done an inventive through OTT, the training provider, where agents can win one of two sets of £100 John Lewis vouchers. But, from our point of view, once they have completed it that gives us a focus to go out and see them. Moving on from that we want to develop an agents’ club where they will be various benefits – that’s the next phase for the programme.

Viking Star's infinity pool
Viking Star’s infinity pool

Cruise Adviser: What’s the biggest challenge you have when talking to agents?
Neil Barclay: With our ocean programme it’s where we should be positioned in the market – right now they don’t enough about us. We’re not an ultra-all inclusive product. We say that we’re four star – even though really we’re five – because we want to under promise and over deliver. Agents want to know who they should be offering this to. We get a lot of past Viking River Cruise passengers but also new to cruise passengers because of our destination rich itineraries. The training will help agents position us better.

To read our diary on board Viking’s Imperial Jewels of China cruise click here.

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