Recently PAXnewsWest.com sat down with Kim Lucy, Viking Cruises’ business development manager for Western Canada to talk about selling cruises and sales challenges faced by western travel agents.
PNW: What do Western Canada agents need to know about your product?
Lucy: We have the two products – the ocean product is new, so it’s important for people to realize that we do have those ships, they are very destination focused and they are virtually all-inclusive, like our river ships. We include everything except for the gratuities, optional tours and soft drinks and alcohol outside the meal service, but like our river ships, we also have a no-corkage policy and we have optional shore excursions and a beverage package travel agents can earn money on.
PNW: What challenges do Western agent face?
Lucy: One of the things I think is kind of misunderstood by a lot of agents is air. I get a lot of emails that say “Why can’t I get a seat assignment?” “What happened to my seat assignment?” “Why do I have to pay extra to deviate?” It’s important for agents to understand what that we don’t have 100 per cent control over [air].
We work with another supplier, we have contracts and block space with our various airline partners, and we have restrictions on those contracts by the airlines. We can’t guarantee seats because equipment changes, because schedules change. If clients want to book outside of the block that we build, there are fees imposed on us by those airlines.
PNW: What are Viking’s best sellers out west?
Lucy: Our most popular itinerary on the rivers is the Grand European, a 15-day, four-country, Amsterdam to Budapest or vice versa voyage. Over 45 per cent of our customers choose that one first. A lot of them are first-time travellers to Europe, and that gives them a really great way to see it. Other customers, even if they’ve done Europe, they’ve done it a long time ago, they’ve done it in different ways, travelling from one big city to another big city. What the river opens up for them is all these little medieval villages that are stretched out, and they bring a different atmosphere and different sights and different “people” experiences.
On the ocean, the Viking Homelands, which is our Baltic and Scandinavian Capitals itinerary is our most popular.
PNW: Can you offer three selling tips?
Lucy: Start high, sell down I always believe that you start with the biggest itinerary and you scale back. Never assume that your customer doesn’t have the money. Our demographic, the 50+ demographic, the baby boomers, have got time, have got money and they’ve got inclination, they’ve got desire because they’re facing a shorter lifespan in front of them than they’ve got behind. Unfortunately, we in our industry have a tendency to sell out of our own pocket and what you have to do is assume the client has got that money or they wouldn’t want to be talking to you.
Make sure that you are "selling fries with that." Make sure you ask if they want premium economy flights, make sure you ask if they want a pre- or post stay. Make sure you are adding in the optional shore excursions if they want it and make sure you are providing the service and getting that extra commission.
Make sure you are telling people you are a Viking expert. Do the training and let people know you sell Viking.