Comment: Now is the time to reflect the excitement felt by our customers

Celebrity Cruises vice-president Giles Hawke encourages agents should turn their attention to Europe as ships reposition for summer

It definitely feels like summer is on the way – the days are longer, it’s noticeably warmer and every now and then we’re even seeing the sun shining! Another great sign of summer is the global shipping fleet repositioning to Europe to provide fantastic close-to-home holidays for millions of British guests. The latest Clia stats show that in 2023 we had a record number of 2.2m Brits cruising, and 2024 looks set to be another bumper year.

Having cruise lines positioning some of their finest hardware in our backyard is a massive opportunity for travel agents to showcase to their customers the best the industry has to offer – and when you add flights, transfers, pre and post-stays and activities, every part of the travel ecosystem benefits.

Within the cruise industry there are still lots of sales to be made and last-minute reservations to be booked, and we all need to be looking out and finding those opportunities to ensure strong cashflow and maximum load factors – again, to the benefit of all. The better we sell, the more strength we have for investment cases for new hardware and deployment to fit our market. Seeing recent cruise company announcements regarding significant ship orders, along with the new ships already in progress, is a glowing testament to consumers’ desire to take up cruising as a holiday type.

Meet expectations

But it’s also incredibly important that we jointly service our mutual clients to the very best level we can and keep in mind their journey starts the moment they book their trip, not when they get on the plane, ship or in the car. For your customers, as the days heat up and the sunshine returns to our shores, it’s the dawning of their holiday dream, what they’ve been excited about since the moment they started their research and chose to book with you – and it’s up to us to deliver on that experience.

If we get it right, guests will continue to come back, knowing we will deliver for them time and time again

If we get it right, guests won’t just have experienced an exceptional holiday with us, they’ll continue to come back, knowing we will deliver for them time and time again. Cruising has an incredible repeat rate and satisfaction score, and we know that if you get the right customer on the right ship it will reap dividends in customer satisfaction, repeat bookings and word-of-mouth referrals.

Know your customers

To get the right customer to the right product you need to be learning how your customers behave, where they are and how they want to communicate. The art of personalisation, and knowing your customer, is absolutely key. At Celebrity Cruises we know very clearly what our customer demographic is and the type of passengers we are looking for – those who love the holiday experience we offer.

More generally, we know that travellers are increasingly looking for travel that expands their minds and feeds their passions, and the next few months offer a rich mosaic of events right across Europe, from major sports tournaments including Euro 2024 and the Olympic and Paralympic Games to incredible music and food festivals all over the Continent. So, focusing on Europe for this summer feels like more than just a commercial play, it’s really where everything is happening and where customers will be focused over the coming months.

This year promises to be a record-breaking one for travel – there is a new-found confidence in the industry, teams are growing, sales are strong and the outlook is positive. And with that should come confidence in ourselves, in what we do and what we deliver for our customers. Having confidence in the brands you sell and the experiences they create will be paramount in generating repeat business.

Let’s embrace the amazing opportunity that summer 2024 offers us all to absolutely wow our guests, while also building demand for 2025. The best time to make a sale is when customers are still glowing from the amazing holiday they have just returned from. So, to use a well-worn phrase, we should make hay while the sun shines!

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