A panel of experts said agents should look at people who are already cruising on larger vessels, but also well-travelled people looking for remote areas that can only be accessed by ship. They emphasised that many people who can be ‘transitioned’ to expedition cruises may not see themselves as cruisers or even as people who would normally travel in a group.
Dianna Schinella, industry sales and marketing manager, Aurora Expeditions says people who have travelled in Africa, those who enjoy activities such as hiking and trekking, and those who want more time to become immersed in a destination are all potential clients. ‘There is a not a typical expedition cruiser. We are seeing solos, couples, groups and a trend towards multigenerational families.’ Schinella says there are compelling reasons for agents to sell expedition and small ship cruising. ‘There are lucrative commissions, in general the spend is $15,000 plus per person per expedition. Aurora passengers tend to come back year after year – they do Antarctica, then the Arctic, South Georgia and the Kimberley – and now we are offering North America.’ She says 70% of business on Aurora is repeat. ‘So you are virtually guaranteed a repeat client.’
Monique Ponfoort, vice president Asia Pacific with PONANT Yacht Cruises & Expeditions, says many agents have a database that is a ‘goldmine’ for expedition cruising. She says one strategy is to identify a developing consultant and make them a key conduit with the supplier. ‘Story telling to your customers can have amazing results. Our top agencies ring our team and ask them to equip them with powerful secrets to pass on to the customers. Then having the customer back to tell their own stories from the heart further empowers the agents.’
Scott Ellis, national sales manager APT Travel Group, was representing river cruising on the panel. He says small vessel clients are people who want to see and experience a destination in a different way. ‘Our river cruising customers want exclusive access to attractions and events that are not available to the general public. So we include a round of golf if people choose to do that, or wine harvesting where they go and pick the grapes and learn first hand about the process, or have a behind the scenes cooking class.’ Andrew Milmore, managing director Windstar Australia, says good agents know their customers and are working ahead, sometimes on a five year plan. ‘They are looking ahead of their customers, they are aware of this (small ship) sector and saying ‘here is a great option for you.’