Comment: Fam trips should be the start of a long-term commitment

Agents and cruise lines must ensure lasting relationships are forged at Clia RiverView, says AmaWaterways’ Jamie Loizou

It’s that golden moment at the start of the relationship. You’ve been on a few dates; everything is new and exciting; magic is in the air. Things couldn’t be going better… or so you thought. Seemingly out of nowhere, the messages end and the calls stop. That’s right: you’re being ghosted.

This is a scenario no one wants in their personal lives. But have you ever stopped to think if you’re unwittingly creating the professional equivalent of this situation? When we, as cruise lines, welcome our valued agent partners on a ship visit or fam trip, are we following up afterwards to build the relationship further? Or are we, through complacency or lack of communication, stopping short of ensuring that showcasing our product leads to something truly meaningful?

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Comment: Fam trips are invaluable but ROI is vital for all involved

It works both ways too. We know agents love being on board our ships, but we need to know the spark hasn’t gone once they are home and the competing demands of everyday life return. It’s crucial to communicate throughout the partnership, and I’d argue one of the most important times is directly after experiencing the product.

Next week, more than 400 agents will descend on Amsterdam for Clia’s largest-ever RiverView Conference, where delegates will have the opportunity to explore 11 river cruise ships and spend two nights on board. It will be a fascinating few days and comes as the river cruise sector booms both in terms of the number of bookings and the number of agents making them.

Conference opportunities

The conference is the perfect opportunity for delegates to learn about the innovation in our exciting sector, meet new contacts and boost their first-hand knowledge of the river ships on display.

But is the time and money spent on fam trips, ship visits and conferences worth the investment? That all depends. None of these activities in isolation sell cruises.

Much has been written about the benefits of experiencing a product, so I won’t dwell on it here, other than to say I believe it plays a vital role in giving agents the knowledge and confidence to clinch those all-important sales. It’s why in 2023 more than 500 agents were hosted on AmaWaterways ships. In fact, I would wager that cruise lines host more agents than any other sector.

So why, in many cases, does neither party benefit as much as they could? Perhaps cruise lines think their work is complete simply by hosting an agent on board. Or perhaps delegates make well-intentioned commitments at a conference or on a fam trip, only to forget about them on their return home – with no hint of a second date on the cards.

Follow-up support

We can all do more. Cruise lines can improve by engaging agents and offering ongoing support, be that through providing promotional tools, additional training and incentives or personalised marketing support.

Agents invest their time in a conference or fam trip, but how can they justify that investment if they don’t reap the rewards through bookings? Those who spend the time arming themselves with the available resources and knowledge to create their river cruise strategy will find it easier to maximise their sales, and ultimately their profitability, when they return home.

We each need to take responsibility to ensure the Clia RiverView Conference is more than a great first date. For a relationship to succeed, both sides need to be fully invested in making the partnership work. When AmaWaterways hosts agents, we are not looking for a short-term fling. Our goal is to find partners who want a collaborative relationship in the months and years to come . . . we want long-term commitment! And this is where the hard work really begins.

In short, it is vital that both sides keep the dialogue going for the relationship to succeed. With so many of us meeting in Amsterdam next week, we have a fantastic chance to forge new and exciting relationships, each with the potential to blossom and help us grow our businesses in the longer term.

What really matters, though, is what happens after we arrive back home.

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