Don’t limit CLIA’s new #ChooseCruise October campaign, which is replacing the Plan a Cruise Month initiative, solely to promote cruise sales. While October is arguably the perfect month to talk to clients about cruising, you shouldn’t overlook the opportunity to capitalize on selling other types of vacations as well.

“It is important to be knowledgeable about all the products you sell during any type of campaign so that you can qualify clients who may not want to book the type of vacation being promoted—but who just want a really good deal,” said Jessica Pentland of Clementine Travels, a Cruise Planners agency in Waikoloa, Hawaii.

“For example, when you discover [clients] really just want an inexpensive trip to the Caribbean, it’s important to recognize that and be able to sell them the appropriate trip.”

Reconnecting With Clients

Ashley Hunter, director of business development at Avoya Travel, suggested using the #ChooseCruise campaign as a way in which to connect, or reconnect, with clients. “Travel professionals can capitalize on new customer queries by establishing relationships and having a good qualifying process to help feel out what those customers might be interested in,” she said.

The #ChooseCruise campaign also provides you with a way in which to build customer loyalty by recommending the best possible vacation. “By providing great service and value, customers are more likely to return and may book a cruise in the future or refer friends and family interested in an upcoming cruise,” Hunter said.

Many times travelers look for similar attributes in land vacations that are available through cruises, enabling agents to promote those benefits when providing travel options. Hunter added, “A cruise might not be what the client is initially interested in, but good travel professionals will listen to their client’s wants and needs and share their knowledge to make suggestions that deliver on the client’s wishes.”

Concurrent Promotions

Avoya Travel’s member agents can take advantage of concurrent promotions that run during the #ChooseCruise campaign in October. “We also offer our World’s Largest Vacation Sale during this time, which features exclusive deals from many of our escorted-tour preferred partners that independent agencies can offer their clients, too,” Hunter noted.

Denise Hangsleben of Travel Your Way in Orlando, Fla., has hosted clients for a Cruise Night each October for the past 10 years but said that when she isn’t working with a specific cruise line, she is prepared to sell a wide range of other vacations as well.

Having just relocated to Orlando, Hangsleben said cruise nights have also helped her become established in the community. “When I hosted my first [cruise night], I let the newspaper know, and it did an article on me, which was great free advertising,” she said.

“I also usually put posters and flyers up around town, in windows, at the doctor’s office, etc., and try to get something in the business section of the local paper. I send emails to past clients, letting them know they get extra raffle tickets for bringing guests.”

Intimate Events

Hangsleben has had great success with more intimate events, which enable her to develop a rapport with clients. “I have had a number of bookings from these events, and I find they are a good way to supplement my income—it’s like a bonus,” she said.

“I build up a loyal clientele who, once they meet me in person, feel more comfortable using my services over the phone and through email. I do see some [clients] afterward around town and that helps them remember to contact me.”

Furthermore, cruise events do not have to be expensive affairs, Hangsleben noted, adding that she has spent more money advertising these events in the past, but found it made no difference in attendance. “At the event, I usually have different tables featuring a certain destination or cruise line or the sale that I am promoting,” she said.

She hosts her events at restaurants, community buildings or even at her home and promotes prizes to boost attendance and encourage questions. “I draw tickets for prizes, and I have found that I don’t have to spend a lot,” she said. “It can be a bottle of wine, a cruise line robe, a deposit on their vacation—I’ve even given away shot glasses.”

Hangsleben also doesn’t serve an abundance of food, which also helps to keep costs down. “I found most people don’t eat much, even when I hold an event at a restaurant,” she said. “So, I do minimal food, some drinks, but not too much alcohol—I want clients to be clear-headed.”

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