Travel agents have been told that they face a golden opportunity to sell cruising to clients old and new, but nothing will fall into their laps — without first making changes to the way they sell the experience and their choice of target audience.
Speaking at CruiseWorld Asia last week, Angie Stephen, Royal Caribbean International's managing director said she hoped travel agents would continue to invest in resources, especially in the digital space, because “that’s where people are shopping”.
Stephen said timing is critical as more travel products would be coming online to compete with cruising as Covid-19 travel bubbles emerge.
Information and knowledge would be key to building confidence with clients, she said.
“The cruise landscape is moving very quickly. It’s not set in stone. It’s important for travel agents to communicate the latest information.”
Stephen said the success of the sailings from Singapore on Quantum of the Seas would pave the way for expansion to other destinations. “We’ve started slowly, gaining experience. We’re not there yet with sailing to other destinations but it’s on the horizon.”
Royal Caribbean is also seeing changes in customer profiles and more affluent customers coming onboard. “There is a huge opportunity for agents to tap into an audience that have not previously booked a cruise,” she said.
Michael Goh, president of Dream Cruises and head of international sales, Genting Cruise Lines, said similar upscale trends were emerging among guests of Genting’s ‘seacation’ cruises out of Taiwan and Singapore.
“Guests are looking for private spaces and private dining,” he said.
Goh also urged travel agents to change their mindsets and be adaptable. “What worked before doesn’t necessarily work now,” he said.
Koh Chong Wee, general manager at Citystate Cruises, agrees. “There needs to be a new way of serving the customer. It’s time to rebuild the business, leveraging on cruise opportunities."
Steven Ler, executive director, head of travel UOB Travel Planners, added that it is time for travel agents to suggest to clients who have not been on a cruise “to try something different”.
Ler, who is also president of National Association of Travel Agents Singapore, said his experience on a recent ‘sailcation’ from Singapore taught him to “slow down and don’t rush”.
Agents, he said, are the “trusted voice” to bridge the confidence gap between customers and cruise lines by providing insights into the cruising experience.
Chris Tay, assistant general manager at New Shan Travel, sees an opportunity to target group meetings business as travel bubbles open up, but calls for cruise lines to offer agents more help in the digital space.