By Rebecca Rachel Wong
It’s one of the trickiest times ever for cruise travel agents: how to keep your customers interested, when you don’t know when you’ll have a product to sell.
“With the current travel bans and restrictions imposed globally, travel sentiments and confidence is very low,” acknowledged Alicia Seah, Director, Public Relations & Communications at Dynasty Travel.
Nevertheless, the agency is keeping customers engaged via its social media platforms. This includes Facebook contests that customers can participate in, allowing them to win travel vouchers.
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There are also posts on how to stay healthy during the lockdown period, with fitness programs conducted by staff. Additionally, posts on various international cuisines which can be ordered for delivery, since dining at restaurants has been banned during this period.
Similarly, Chan Brothers Travel is engaging its customer base through digital platforms. This includes email campaigns and social media feeds with educational and inspirational content on travelling from home and keeping the wanderlust alive.
“Being a company of passionate holidaymakers ourselves, we believe that travel is, and will be, a force to stay for good, especially for Singaporeans who are known to be avid explorers,” noted Victoria Chong, Marketing Communications Executive at Chan Brothers Travel. “In anticipation of the impending pent-up demand for wanderlust, we are focusing our efforts on enhancing our arsenal of products and services, so we will be ready to welcome travellers back into the fold with more finesse.”
Both agencies are also hoping to partner cruise lines in inspiring confidence in cruising once the situation improves.
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“Inspiring confidence during recovery would be a multi-pronged effort with our partner cruise operators, through sharing heightened on-board precautionary measures to safeguard the health and well-being of guests and crew,” said Ms Chong.
She also noted that in light of Covid-19’s economic impact, cruise lines are likely to amp up their offerings in terms of product and service improvement and pricing promotions, in a bid to attract cruisers when the market is ready.
“Dynasty is looking forward to working collaboratively with cruise lines when things stablise,” added Ms Seah. “This includes offering customers special promotions and incentives, such as onboard credit for cash purchase to encourage cruise bookings. We also foresee that regional travel will be first to recover, and spurred by a pent up-demand once the travel bans are lifted.”
Cruise lines such as Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean have also expressed their support for travel agents during this lockdown period.
“We maintain regular contact with travel advisors via phone calls and messages in order to understand the challenges they are going through, so that we can support them when the market recovers via the co-funding of marketing activities,” noted Princess Cruises.
Additionally, Princess’ sales team currently offers training for agency staff through video conferencing facilities. Its online training portal, Princess Academy, continues to be available for agency staff to sign up and complete their courses up to graduation, when they achieve Commodore status.
“We are also adding new content which has become relevant, such as the disinfection of Diamond Princess,” noted Princess. “We do this to assure travel advisors that Diamond Princess is completely sanitised and is safe for guests to travel on in the near future.’
Royal Caribbean Cruises’ Chairman Richard Fain has been releasing videos with words of encouragement for the travel agent community as well.
“Your clients are not only concerned about health issues, they’re hungry for information and you can satisfy that hunger,” he said, in a video addressed to agents on April 24. “As we emerge from this, your knowledge, expertise and advice will be more important than ever before. So we recommend you use this time to prepare yourself, learn all you can about this virus and keep your clients informed, so that they will feel more confident when the suspension is lifted.”
“Agents should stay in touch with the latest safety and health protocols for travel, as well as updated travel insurance policies,” added Princess. “For example, new polices by cruise lines regarding embarkation and disembarkation procedures, age limits, health declarations and social distancing measures.”