Comment: Now is a good time to reflect and plan

Celebrity Cruises’ Giles Hawke says awards season offers inspiration for how to continually improve

We all crave escapism. I imagine it’s why many of us work in travel. It’s that thirst for an escape from the ordinary, from routine, from the nine to five. But just recently, I have experienced a rekindling closer to home: I have fallen back in love with the cinema, not only for the reverie that a two-hour blockbuster provides, but also for the novelty of a totally immersive encounter, for an elevated experience that propels you out of the daily grind.

Having reignited my cinematic spark, I tuned in to the Oscars last weekend, which closed out the year’s busy film awards season. And it struck a chord: the Oscars represents the culmination of an annual period for reflection, recognition and resetting as the film and television industry moves into what promises to be another year of spellbinding entertainment. But it’s not just the Hollywood elite that uses this time for review, to celebrate success and inform intent for the year to come.

As we approach the end of the first quarter, which set the scene for Celebrity Cruises’ own Travel Agent Appreciation Awards and the Travel Weekly Globes, it represents a natural line in the sand, a marker for measurement, examination and action.

Time to reflect

With the peaks period in travel drawing to a close, this is an opportune moment for us all to take time to evaluate our position and reflect on the start of the year, whether brands, operators or travel advisors, seasoned or new. This month marks a pivotal juncture, where we can share our learnings to continue on a course for success in 2024 and into 2025. I have read so many headlines about record bookings days, weeks and months, so I’m assuming many in the travel industry are in a strong position as we begin the second quarter of the year.

It’s a time to delve into our journey since 2024’s onset: what have we learnt? Have we noticed anything different about traveller preferences for this year? Are people booking later, are they spending less or more, are they trying new destinations, are they more proactive in asking about cruising? By examining these questions, agents can unearth invaluable lessons to steer them through the year ahead.

Knowledge and skills

During this moment of review, investing in training becomes paramount. Through all this, agility and adaptability are key in responding to changing market dynamics, recalibrating strategies and realigning priorities as needed. It’s a time to equip ourselves with the knowledge and skills to navigate the constantly changing face of the industry – we all have to be accountable for our learning, to stay ahead of the game in our product knowledge and to continually enhance our awareness and expertise, so we can best inform customers and sell them the right holiday every time.

And staying ahead means ongoing training. As the year progresses, it’s impossible to overestimate the importance of an ‘always on’ approach in keeping abreast of trends. This is a time for investing in self or, at the least, becoming fully informed, spending time becoming an expert and gaining a deeper understanding of the brands you sell and the audiences you are selling to.

As brands, we aim to make learning about our businesses as simple as possible. This is why Celebrity Cruises is launching the next phase of its Celebrity for Beginners training programme in partnership with Travel Weekly, helping agents who are new to the industry or looking to reinvent and start selling cruise, and supporting those who want to sell our brand to find new customers, develop skills and sell with confidence and knowledge.

As we move through this decisive time, by taking stock of our journey, investing in training and charting a course towards success, we can navigate the seas of uncertainty with confidence. Who knows, by spending time to invest now, by becoming better informed and even more trusted to clients, a golden statuette of your own may be within reach as we all reconvene for 2025’s glittering travel awards season.

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