Cruisers may well have an appetite for escorted tours, says Paul Melinis, APT UK & Europe managing director and Atas chairman

Over the years, I have been asked the question: “If you say that ocean cruise and touring guests are similar, how can we increase our touring sales by using our cruise database?”

Unfortunately, it’s not a simple answer. Try imagining when you are in a restaurant deciding on whether you fancy the à la carte or tasting menu.

The challenge to convince a cruiser that touring is another option involves breaking through the misconceptions and understanding their needs.

Many are likely to conjure up images of being told where to be every minute of the day and being herded around on coaches, but touring holidays are far more flexible.

Explore on a tour

Recent TV shows such as Race Across the World and Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown have done a great job of planting the seeds to encourage people to seek destinations that are unique or unknown.

Often these locations can be trickier to access independently and an escorted tour is ideal as it offers security and the knowledge that you will be travelling with local experts.

We know there is an appetite for adventure.

A recent report from Silver Travel Advisor claims baby boomers have “a thirst for knowledge and new experiences” and are “looking to tick destinations off their expanding bucket list”. I agree with them.

Imagine you’re talking to Mrs Smith who has booked her ocean cruises with you for several years.

She’s likely to have visited many top destinations, but this year she turns 60 and is looking for a big adventure.

Here is your chance to convince her to try an escorted tour.

Ask her: “Why did you chose to cruise in the past? Was it because of what the ship had to offer or was it the chance to visit many cities on one holiday?”

If her answer is the ship offering, it’s unlikely Mrs Smith will be interested in a tour. But if it was to see many places at once…bingo!

Go à la carte

Let’s head back to the restaurant and that menu decision.

If Mrs Smith is a destination explorer, then she’s already enjoyed the tasting menu for many years. Now it’s time for you to convince her that à la carte is the way forward, so she can enjoy the full flavour a destination has to offer.

Identify her favourite destination, then delight her with the included experiences.

Reveal how she’ll be immersed in culture, will avoid the crowds and will see cities when they come alive at night, as you’re not as time-limited in each place. Then move on to the practical side and what’s included.

At APT, everything is included, from your VIP chauffeur to the airport to a choice of excursions or free time, the size of the group and an opportunity to spend more or fewer nights in destinations. Your customers pick a tour that suits their pace.

For example, if your customers have cruised around Australia and New Zealand, they wouldn’t have covered the areas in detail, or explored what’s on offer inland.

Remember, you can’t sell every ocean cruise customer a tour, but there is certainly an appetite if you understand why they choose to cruise.

Cruise is a great taster menu option, but a touring holiday is the à la carte of travelling.