CruiseTime to catch the new-to-cruise and digital waves, says Royal Caribbean's Angie Stephen.

The ships have sailed, yet opportunities abound

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New cruisers make up 80% of Quantum's Singapore bookings, but of these less than 8% had previously booked with a travel agent. Missed or untapped opportunity?
New cruisers make up 80% of Quantum's Singapore bookings, but of these less than 8% had previously booked with a travel agent. Missed or untapped opportunity? Photo Credit: Natalie Joy Lee

Nearly a month after Dream Cruises began sailing in Singapore on World Dream, Royal Caribbean International earlier this week also resumed its operations on Quantum of the Seas.

The safe resumption of cruising in Singapore has brought a fresh wave of opportunities for travel agents, said Angie Stephen, Royal Caribbean International's managing director.

While pent-up demand for cruise was already clear when the sailing restart announcement was made in October, two months on it's clear that the new-to-cruise segment is driving sales, she added.

"A positive effect of Covid is that it has introduced cruising to a whole new audience who may not have considered it before," remarked Stephen, sharing her observations with Travel Weekly Asia.

In fact, 80% of Quantum's Singapore bookings are from new cruisers, and of these less than 8% had booked with a travel agent — and herein lies the opportunity for agents, she stressed.

"One, we’re waiting to see the repeat guests who’ve booked with agents before," Stephen advised. "Two, look outside of your cruise database. Guests who used to do land tours might have never considered a homeport cruise before, but we should be talking to them."

The massive 16-deck ship has introduced new systems that will be rolled out globally after Singapore. They include a Bluetooth wearable 'tracelet' for contact tracing purposes, and an industry-first Muster 2.0, which replaces the traditional, cumbersome safety drill.
The massive 16-deck ship has introduced new systems that will be rolled out globally after Singapore. They include a Bluetooth wearable 'tracelet' for contact tracing purposes, and an industry-first Muster 2.0, which replaces the traditional, cumbersome safety drill. Photo Credit: Natalie Joy Lee

RCL has begun partnering with travel agents with active social media platforms to test the waters of paid social posts and reach out to a broader audience, including novel cruisers. However, this appears to be an area that not all agents "have played in before", observed Stephen.

Which is why a "mindset shift" is important for agents, she said, urging the switch to "become digitally as well as socially savvy in how you’re communicating to your audience, because this is the way people are shopping these days and you want to be present in that".

And how else can agents convert the 'wait-and-see' crowd to book cruises?

Safety and convenience will still be strong drawcards, said Stephen, pointing to the uptick in January's cruise sales for Royal Caribbean when the Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble was put on hold.

Stephen noted that "there’s still going to be a market that isn’t ready to get on an airplane, isn’t ready to pay personally for a PCR Covid test on both sides of bubble participating destinations".

"What our travel partners can do is give an extra nudge to the ‘wait-and-see’ crowd…I expect another surge of bookings from [this] audience. I encourage our travel agents to be ready and first in line to take that demand."

Referencing an earlier comment that she made during CruiseWorld Asia's October webinars for travel agents, during which Stephen had paralleled the industry pause to a "red light", the light has most certainly turned green in Singapore.

"Let’s start small, get it right and we’ll continue to experiment from there."

Keen to hear more from cruise experts on how to drive strong cruise sales? Sign up for Travel Weekly Asia's upcoming CruiseWorld Asia Regional Conference on 15 December.

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