Cruise Planners December LB 2017

TIME TO REFRESH YOUR SKILLS IN OBTAINING GROUP BUSINESS AND GROW YOUR PROFITS

CraigSatterfield
By Craig Satterfield
CLIA Elite Cruise Counselor Scholar

Now that the kids are going back to school and you are looking at growing your business during the end of this year and the beginning of next it is time to look at your potential in developing and selling cruise groups.  Today groups are really the only way to make some decent money. Other than selling the more deluxe cruise lines and river cruises the way to decent profits with the major cruise lines is to leverage you as the group specialist in your area and prospect for the business.

Set aside a block of time every day to develop and instigate a new strategy to develop your group department otherwise you can never achieve your goals.  Start out simple and think thru your own interests (other than your travel job of course).  Just realize that your groups can be successful with people just like you that have a common interest.  A fan group is one of the most popular and common themes.  Just think about how many people would be interested in a cruise with others who love Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, it does exist!  People that have never cruised and want to sometimes need that little nudge that a special interest cruise can offer.  You will build your overall numbers with a group verses client by client.  Your bottom line will grow since your commissions will increase due to your new higher volume.  You have a higher probability of success with groups since your clients booked on a group cruise have a lower cancellation percentage than on an individual basis.

If you want to get your cruise line’s BDM’s attention, just start booking and selling groups.  These are the numbers the lines look at when offering co-op funds and other promotions.  Did you realize that as many as 60% of passengers on ships are actually booked in a group!  If you want to maximize your selling time you can by selling groups.  Yes the majority of the work is prospecting for the groups and setting them up but once you have that organized and the marketing goes out then they sell themselves.  People love to cruise with friends and those with similar interests.  You will discover that 75% of your guests are cruising because their friends are.

The major cruise lines are very aware of this statistic so much so that NCL purchased a music theme cruise company called The Sixth Man (http://www.sixthman.net/), extremely successful in operating cruises with major musical talents.  You can tap into these theme cruises with your own group in conjunction with a radio station or fan club. Rock and country bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, KISS, and Alabama have been featured along with the yearly Turner Classic Movies cruise, which I have always wanted to take, are operated by The Sixth Man……and they are happy to pay commission!  Also check out www.themecruisefinder.com, which will give you a list of theme cruises offered and may give you some ideas for you to plan and market one of these or set up your own and list it on the site for others to see.

Convert your new clients that are booked on your theme cruise to individual clients too.  Group cruises have the highest satisfaction rate so your guests will return happy and ready to do business with you again and again.  They may even become a pied piper or a lead for a cruise with their family or groups that they are involved in.

Tired of being shopped by customers and being compared on price to the big internet operators or the membership clubs?  A group cruise is something that is very difficult for people to shop you on.  The fact that you are offering a unique experience with events or amenities that cannot be duplicated on an individual basis will make it much easier for you to book the business.

Let’s look at other kinds of groups too.  Once you have established yourself as the “go to” person for group travel, you can expand your horizons and advertise family reunion cruises. I always seem to see members of family reunions when I cruise since they seem to like to advertise it via a T-shirt.  Open your marketing to wedding parties at sea.  Cruise lines tell us that the average size of a group like this is 50 plus guests.

Charity and fund raiser group cruises are becoming much more popular these days.  People love to help their favorite charity raise money and have a nice vacation at the same time.  Most major cruise lines have programs that help determine the donation for a group like this in lieu of group amenity points that you might generally share with the individual guests.  Remember this is a fund raiser so you need to look at this differently than other groups.

Meetings and conventions groups are very important business to cruise lines otherwise they would not have included meeting rooms and theaters in the very valuable space on board their ships.  Meeting planners are always very pleased when I tell them that that most of the meeting rooms, audio visual equipment, and coordination is complimentary.  This is a very refreshing change from having meetings in hotels where they will charge you for a paper clip!

Incentive programs can be very profitable but attempt them only after you have some experience in developing and selling groups before you do into them.  Incentive programs can be very complicated and need to be planned at least 12-18 months in advance.  They do take quite a bit of time to develop and sell but they are worth it profit wise and reputation wise.  It helps to be extremely detail oriented when you tackle incentive programs.  The group leader will expect your expertise in helping him develop the goals for the potential winners of the cruise.

Learn to promote the benefit of group cruises to your clients and friends.  First it is a great value as we know to travel with friends and family.  They will learn from you that they can dine, tour and socialize together away from home and nobody has to do the dishes!  It’s a great way to meet new people that bond with a common interest be it a rock group, a craft or scrapbooking interest or a destination passion.  People love to support a cause and a cruise is a nice way to do it.  Remind them of the special activities and events that are offered with a group of yours that cannot be obtained any other way.

So here comes the hard part.  How do we find these potential group cruisers and pied pipers anyway?  Start at home with your own family, your existing clients, and your social contacts.  It’s good to remind them what business you are in isn’t it?  Think of any associations you might be a member of.  Start with your on line social communities like LinkedIn and special interest blogs.  One of the great things about your commitment to develop your group cruising business is that when you contact them you can also remind them of all the types of travel you do.  Two birds with one stone so to speak.

Remember to offer yourself as a speaker to groups as this can be an excellent way to gain interest in doing a group cruise for this group too!

Your commitment to spend some time off the phone and the net to communicate personally with your friends, clients, potential group leaders and special interest groups will pay off and will build your group and individual business for the upcoming new year.

You are always welcome to email me with questions or challenges and I will be happy to try and help you at Craigsatterfield515@gmail.com