Since the cruise industry sets its sights around the meetings and incentive market with renewed vigor, there are actually expanded opportunities for cruise-selling travel agents to reel in running a business clients.
“Corporate events and incentive travel represent a promising growth area for business cruising,” said Christine Duffy, president and CEO of Cruise Lines International Association. “Two-thirds of travel companies report they will probably book a meeting or incentive cruise in the following twelve months,”
In contrast to cruise meetings, incentive programs on cruise liners have got a long-standing history. Although the market has evolved considerably in recent times, as has cruise liner design.
While more incentive travel company are breaking to the incentive business, individuals with long experience in the market caution that we now have challenges for smaller players.
“The obstacles to entering the company can be a little higher with incentives,” said David Kliman, president in the Kliman Group, a meetings consultancy firm. “Big companies curently have deeply-embedded long term buyer-supplier relationships.”
Retail agents need to look at their portfolio of relationships, he advised.
“The incentives market is very relationship-driven,” Kliman said. “Agents need to determine which services they could realistically provide to meeting professionals before they grab the device to ask for business.”
Among travel specialists who definitely have found success with incentives is Kathy Fitzgibbons who segued coming from a retail travel agency to Maritz Travel in St. Louis, the country’s largest incentive company.
She learned the company by working first with incentive “winners” who called in to sign up for their company’s incentive programs. Eventually she worked her way up to become Maritz’ Travel Buyer and Cruise Specialist, in the role of liaison with global cruise suppliers.
Fitzgibbons’ clients are derived from a number of industries. They are the financial and automobile sectors, and also the direct-sell market, such as Avon. Her average group size is 200 guests, but she recently blocked 600 cabins for an incentive event over a Mediterranean cruise.
Once aboard the ship, incentive programs have huge variations from casual for the meetings-intense. However they all share a common feature: participants been employed by hard for the trip.
“It’s exciting for somebody to find out their reward is to be on a cruise,” Fitzgibbons said. “Usually, as soon as the spouses learn which a cruise is involved, they apply the strain to win.”
Because cruising generally speaking has yet to bring in a lot more than 20% of North American travelers, there may be a lot of possible ways to grow the incentive market, Fitzgibbons noted.
“I try to incorporate cruises whenever you can if we are making a proposal to get a client,” she said. “Sometimes, the business has not even considered it plausible.”
Value and diversity are top selling points for cruise ship venues, she added.
The lion’s share of her incentive programs take place in the Caribbean or Alaska, Fitzgibbons said, adding that the Mediterranean has seen resurgence and also the Adriatic is extremely hot.
River cruising is additionally attracting the incentive market, as outlined by Fitzgibbons.
“In the 1990s we did a lot of river cruises, but the business went away,” she said. “Now, new vessels are being launched with plenty of balconies, wi-fi, even alternate 49dexqpky venues. And, the ships stop at all the tiny towns across the Danube, which happens to be obviously a thing that larger ships don’t do.”
Agents enthusiastic about cruise incentive sales should take into account that travel is just one component of the company. Top firms offer full-service solutions that come with creating and monitoring the underlying sales incentive programs.
Successful incentive planning involves overseeing activities both off and on the ship.
“We work tirelessly to produce exclusive group experiences on shore excursions,” said Fitzgibbons. “We can do that as a consequence of our strong relationships together with the top ground suppliers. We’re constantly trying to provide that ‘wow’ factor.”