SeaDream Yacht Club has introduced a last-minute cancellation policy and more aggressive tactical offers to boost sales in the tough economic climate.


The company is allowing customers to cancel up to 48 hours in writing prior to departure and delay the holiday for up to 18 months for a one-off $100 per cabin penalty. It is valid for all new 2008, 2009 and 2010 bookings and for existing 2008 and 2009 bookings where just the deposit has been paid.


A similar policy was operated after the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks when the company had just started up.


Head of UK business Ian Buckeridge said the ‘Cancel for Any Reason’ policy showed the company wanted to be sympathetic to consumers because of the current economic downturn.


He added: “We have introduced this to stimulate the market. It is designed to let people book now with confidence.”


The company is also using more aggressive tactical offers on less popular dates, such as sailings in the Caribbean next spring, and special ‘take a mate’ deals, although Buckeridge said prices were currently on average 19% higher for summer 2009 than for summer 2008.


Buckeridge added: “We will introduce some attractive offers on dates that are not moving if we need to. At the moment prices are 19% up and we are working our prices up rather than down. We have also been more ruthless with the way we plan our voyages to be more efficient in terms of fuel.”


The ‘take a mate’ deal is for bookings up to December 15 and allows passengers who introduce a friend to go on a SeaDream Yacht holiday to get 5% off per passenger, up to 25% off. This is valid on the best available early booking fare on the day of booking. Currently, deals have savings of 25%-35%. “This is to encourage past passengers to book. Our passengers are our best ambassadors,” said Buckeridge.


Meanwhile, new ports have been added in Spain, Italy, France, Slovenia, Croatia, Tunisia, Greece and the Azores for 2009.


* More WTM 2008 coverage at travelweekly.co.uk/wtm2008