For the past ten years, GoCruise specialists have delivered professional advice and expertise on the world of cruising – providing customers with a wealth of information and knowledge. The GoCruise specialists that are the unique selling point and have collectively seen GoCruise rise from strength to strength.
GoCruise was established in 2001 before being bought by Fred. Olsen Travel ten years ago and today there are 60 specialists based around the country. To mark the ten year anniversary and discuss the general direction for the year ahead; a conference was held in Liverpool on 5th January at the Merseyside Maritime Museum.
Several aspects of the business were discussed over the course of the event and there were also opportunities for the cruise specialists to network with each other and the various cruise lines. Key GoCruise figures Geoff Ridgeon and Bridget Coe were at hand to provide a review of the past year in the cruise industry; whilst other cruise experts provided a wealth of knowledge and advice on attracting new to cruise customers.
Head of Cruise for GoCruise, Geoff Ridgeon, discussed how cruise specialists have been performing in terms of sales for 2014. He described 2014 as a “record year” and GoCruise had seen a 25% increase in bookings compared to 2013. With statistics at hand, he was able to provide a detailed insight into the market and establish how things would be likely to go in 2015. Geoff discussed which avenues were being fully utilised in order to attract traffic and customers including the website and social media.
He then outlined the improvements that had been made to the business in 2014 on 2013 and used this to form a basis to discuss what would be new for 2015 before opening the floor to questions from the cruise specialists. GoCruise is part of Fred. Olsen Travel who have a collection businesses consisting of a retail network of ten shops (East Anglia), Fred.\Holidays (Online), Star Clippers (UK GSA), Pullmantur Cruises (UK GSA) and Ama Waterways (UK Preferred Partner). The conference was also an ideal opportunity to showcase all these great products.
Talking about the new to cruise market, Geoff said: “Over the years we have proven our worth, we have pre-emptively grown our routes to market, our investment, our resource and the family” Geoff stated. “The family of talented people that we’ve got out here today! I'm extremely proud of the journey that we have taken”.
Manager, Bridget Coe, has a wealth of business experience and provided her business tips and advice to the cruise specialists. She provided inspirational quotations from business people and historical figures.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not a single act but a habit.” (Aristotle).
“Do what you do well, but they will want to see it again and bring their friends.” (Walt Disney, founder of Disney)
“Get closer than ever to your customers. So close in fact that you tell them what they need well before they know themselves.” (Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple)
Bridget also provided advice not only on how to handle current customers well but also how to attract future customers. She emphasised the importance of customer service and outlined the ways in which the cruise specialists could improve traffic numbers and secure bookings.
Cruise specialists, Roy Jones and his wife Margaret joined GoCruise in 2003 before it was owned by Fred. Olsen Travel. He described the journey he’s been on with the company and how things have changed over time with GoCruise and the cruise industry as a whole.
“The product has moved on so much. We’ve got these phenomenal ships out there that offer everything for everybody. You can almost find a cruise for anybody if you look for it.”
Asked about the secrets behind his and his wife’s success; he said: “Being honest with your client is important - going the extra mile. They’re confident that if there is a problem, you’ll resolve it. Even now, if I get a call – I’ve got all the brochures behind me. One of the first things I do when the phone call comes through, I’ll put the brochure down in front of me because it’s great. You can talk about it and get people interested in it.”
“Knowledge is power. You really need to do those ship visits and get to know your product. If somebody takes their car to a garage, they expect them to repair it. If somebody phones up to book a cruise, they expect you to know what you’re talking about.”
When talking about the “new to cruise” he stated: “You don’t want to talk down to people. You know your product; you go through it with people and explain because that makes us different from the main travel agent. We can say that that balcony is overlooked; that cabin has got vibration at the back of the ship and it gives people confidence to book with you.”
Sales Director for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Ben Bouldin, discussed with the specialists the importance of the new to cruise guest. He is relatively new to the cruise industry, having previously worked for PepsiCo, but has gathered a wealth of knowledge in a short amount of time. Talking about the cruise industry’s current customers; he described Royal Caribbean's plans to develop growth in the coming years.
Ben summed up cruise industry customers into three categories: past customers, new-to-brand and new-to-cruise and stated the importance of going after new to cruise customers and ensuring new to brand customers keeping coming back for more.
“If you put the wrong guest on the wrong cruise line once, they will never cruise again. We need you to be responsible for the people you put on those cruise lines and have a duty of care to make sure you pick the right thing for them.”
He also stated that everything on board Quantum of the Seas and sister ships Anthem of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas had all been designed with the new to cruise customer in mind. Talking about new ship, Quantum of the Seas, he said: “I was new to cruise and I can say this, hand on heart, as a person who was new to cruise that ship definitely wowed. I genuinely believe it adds so much more opportunity for us as we go after a new audience.”
One of the new features that specialists at GoCruise wanted for 2015 was the ability to network and converse with one another and the networking event at the GoCruise conference allowed for this to take place. Additionally, leading cruise lines had set up stands and representatives were at hand to provide first-hand product knowledge; allowing the GoCruise Specialists to learn about the latest campaigns and opportunities for 2015.
Cruise lines present at the Merseyside Maritime Museum included: Norwegian Cruise Line; Holland America Line; Celebrity Cruises; Fred. Olsen Cruise Line; Star Clippers; Fred.\Holidays; P&O Cruises; AmaWaterways; Cunard and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.
So that sums up the GoCruise conference in January 2015. This is one of many regular advice, knowledge and expertise meetings you can enjoy as a GoCruise cruise specialist. If you love cruising and are interested in what you’ve seen in this blog then why not enquire today? It could be the best decision of 2015!