Because the cruise industry sets its sights in the meetings and incentive market with renewed vigor, there are 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 agencies report they will likely book a gathering or incentive cruise in the next 12 months,”
Contrary to cruise meetings, incentive programs on cruise lines have a long-standing history. However the market has changed considerably lately, as has cruise ship design.
While more corporate travel incentive are breaking in to the incentive business, those that have long experience in the market caution there are challenges for smaller players.
“The obstacles to entering the business certainly are a little higher with incentives,” said David Kliman, president from the Kliman Group, a meetings consultancy firm. “Big companies already have deeply-embedded long-term buyer-supplier relationships.”
Retail agents need to look at their portfolio of relationships, he advised.
“The incentives sector is very relationship-driven,” Kliman said. “Agents need to determine what services they could realistically provide to meeting professionals before they grab the device to request business.”
Among travel specialists who may 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 organization by working first with incentive “winners” who called in to register for their company’s incentive programs. Eventually she worked her way approximately become Maritz’ Travel Buyer and Cruise Specialist, serving as liaison with global cruise suppliers.
Fitzgibbons’ clients are derived from several industries. They range from the financial and automobile sectors, along with the direct-sell market, like Avon. Her average group size is 200 guests, but she recently blocked 600 cabins for the incentive event over a Mediterranean cruise.
Once aboard the ship, incentive programs have huge variations from casual to the meetings-intense. But they all share a frequent feature: participants been employed hard for that trip.
“It’s exciting for someone to find out that the reward is to be on a cruise,” Fitzgibbons said. “Usually, as soon as the spouses find out which a cruise is involved, they apply pressure to win.”
Because cruising generally speaking has yet to draw in a lot more than 20% of North American travelers, there is a lot of possible ways to grow the incentive market, Fitzgibbons noted.
“I try and incorporate cruises whenever feasible whenever we are making a proposal for any client,” she said. “Sometimes, the corporation has not yet even considered it as a 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 this Mediterranean has seen resurgence as well as the Adriatic is particularly hot.
River cruising is additionally attracting the incentive market, according to Fitzgibbons.
“In the 1990s we did a lot of river cruises, but the business went away,” she said. “Now, new vessels are increasingly being launched with many different balconies, wi-fi, even alternate 49dexqpky venues. And, the ships stop by any means the little towns over the Danube, which can be obviously an issue that larger ships don’t do.”
Agents interested in cruise incentive sales should understand that travel is only one bit 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 on and off the ship.
“We strive to generate exclusive group experiences on shore excursions,” said Fitzgibbons. “We are capable of doing that because of our strong relationships with the top ground suppliers. We’re constantly trying to provide that ‘wow’ factor.”