According to new research from Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), cruise guests who book through a travel advisor are 10% happier than those who book elsewhere, up from 7% last year.
“You’re showing up,” Charles Sylvia, CLIA’s vice president of membership and trade relations, told attendees at Cruise 360 in Ft. Lauderdale this week. “It just keeps going up and up and up.”
That number goes along with other stats that are proving just how valuable advisors are — 79.5% of travelers prefer to book a cruise with a travel advisor, with 49% saying they do so to get the best deal and 39% saying that they do so to take advantage of the expertise of travel advisors.
“The best deal has nothing to do with price. The best deal has everything to do with value and satisfaction and having their needs, wants and expectations exceeded, and you’re doing a great job at that,” Sylvia said.
That 79.5% figure in the cruise industry is almost 50% better than it is on the land side — land vacationers prefer to book through a travel advisor 50% of the time.
With those increases, the challenges that advisors now face are different. While most who didn’t book through advisors believed it cost more to do so, now that’s no longer the case.
"For the first year in as long as I can remember, the number one misconception is not related to cost,” Sylvia said.
Data gathered in January from CLIA shows that 50% of those who don’t use a travel advisor are making the decision to book themselves because of fear of missing out on the enjoyment of planning a cruise. That’s compared to 45% who prefer to do the research themselves, and now just 31% who believe it costs more to book through a travel advisor.
One way that advisors can combat that, Sylvia told attendees, is by using different rules of engagement. Advisors can market the booking process as a collaborative effort between the client and themselves, providing an experience instead of just providing a service.
“You can tell them ‘Let’s plan your dream cruise together,’” he said.
If clients “want to research the destinations or the shore excursions or the ship or category,” advisors should allow them to do that, but tell them, “I’ll handle the details … I’ve got contacts, I’ve got relationships, I’ve got know-how about how this industry works that you’ll never have.
There’s no website that you can go to that you can learn what I’ve learned. I’m a travel advisor and I will advise you and I’ll make certain that everything goes the way you want it,” Sylvia said.
Tell them, “You’ve got plans. I’ll make certain that it goes according to plan.”