Virgin Voyages has reported its “biggest-ever booking month”, attributed in part to winning a Globe Award.
Shane Riley, vice-president of international sales and marketing, told Travel Weekly January was a “brilliant” month for sales, beating the previous record, set in September last year, by 61%.
He praised the performance of travel agents, referred to as ‘First Mates’, saying the investment the line has made educating the trade in the last year is now “paying dividends”.
Virgin Voyages was named Best Premium Cruise Company at this year’s Globe Travel Awards, prompting new agents to engage with the line and contributing to higher sales, Lewis said.
“The Globes really opened doors for us,” he said. “After we won, the phone started ringing from First Mates we hadn’t spoken to before and they’ve already gone on and made sales.”
During last year’s wave season, February was the best booking month, according to Riley, who said he hopes the same will be true for this year.
The line has divided its wave strategy into three parts to run alongside the first three months of the year, and with January and part one complete, it is moving onto part two with a new consumer offering and ongoing trade incentives.
“January was amazing so we are going to continue what we were doing last month by having our business development executives out on the road everyday visiting agents, hosting events at weekends, running coffee shop training sessions for homeworkers and doing call centre takeovers,” Lewis said.
“We also have a new offer where customers can pay for one sailor and get a second one for 65% off plus up to $500 in bar tab depending on the length of the voyage.
“We are also continuing to run our Bring on Barcelona incentive as well as offering agents the chance to win afternoon tea with Sir Richard Branson on a five-night sailing from Portsmouth in September.”
Two-thirds of January’s sales were for 2024 cruises, Riley said, with summer bookings leading the way.
Ex-UK sailings have been popular both with new-to-brand customers who want to “try before they fly” and with multi-generational groups for “families who want to travel together, but don’t need the slides, gizmos and gadgets”, Riley said.
“The UK is our second largest source market after North America,” said Riley. “Before January, the UK and Australia were sitting on par, but the UK has nudged ahead after last month.
“We’re looking forward to February and hope it will be even bigger than January.”
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