Hurtigruten is to focus on building its relationship with multiples and consortia during 2008.

The cruise operator has revealed it aims to increase trade sales in 2008 through a range of marketing initiatives, training and joint advertising activities with agents.

The plans follow a successful 2007 where Hurtigruten saw overall growth in excess of 25%.

The operator has revealed it is currently finalising budgets but will be allocating significant funds to supporting the travel trade and employing new staff to support the trade both out on the road and in the office.

It is also planning to introduce a series of knowledge based ‘Seminars at Sea’ which will see groups of agents taken out to the ships to experience and learn about the product. The objective is that in 2008 over 150 agents will experience the Hurtigruten product first hand. Other initiatives will include an increase of marketing spend for agents, on line training, roadshows and other events.

Kathryn Beadle, head of commercial at Hurtigruten, said: “The cruise sector is a new area of the industry for me and it holds so much potential due to the rapid growth in the sector.

“One of my first tasks is to look at ways that we can work more closely with the travel trade. Hurtigruten already have excellent relationships with many of the specialist cruise agents but I believe both the multiples and consortia members offer significant growth opportunities and over the coming months we will be working hard to develop this.

“The employment of new support staff demonstrates how serious we are and I look forward to working more closely with agents this year and helping them develop their cruise business in this lucrative niche sector.”

Beadle spent 10 years at Virgin Holidays as sales and marketing director and two years at Argo/Jetlife Holidays in the same position.