Expedition cruise specialists give their top tips on selling this lucrative sector. Laura French reports.
As managing director of expedition specialist Wildfoot Travel – which sells cruises in the Arctic, Antarctica, Africa, Latin America and Asia – Simon has extensive experience working on the polar regions and beyond. He has kayaked through remote, icy regions and is especially fascinated by the Falklands and the Antarctic peninsula.
Simon Rowland, managing director
“When we first hear from a potential expedition customer, they are sometimes overwhelmed with too much information, which can be confusing. These initial questions can often be anticipated. They’re usually around the size of the vessel, the expertise on board, how much opportunity there’ll be to get close to the scenery and wildlife, and the best time of year to go.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most passengers, so it has to be right in every way. I’d recommend asking questions centred around these concerns to guide the customer, focusing on one issue at a time.
I’d also recommend learning and reading as much as you can to become an expert. You will definitely have customers in your current database who want to visit the polar regions and beyond, so seek them out and be ready for them before another specialist does it for you. Spread the word so people know you’re offering expedition adventures.
It’s also important to highlight the sustainability factor when you’re selling these cruises – we’ve noticed that we’re experiencing great demand for well-designed, environmentally-friendly vessels.
When it comes to destination, Svalbard and the shorter Antarctica departures are selling well, but we’re also finding that Iceland, Greenland and Canada are starting to appeal because of the Inuit cultural opportunities, polar history and wildlife viewing. Franz Joseph Land in the Russian Arctic is also becoming popular. It’s a less-travelled region with glaciers, polar bears and whales, in the heart of the remote, untouched wilderness.”
“Know the seasons”
With a passion for mountaineering and exploration, James has travelled extensively in the polar regions of Svalbard, Antarctica and Greenland. He has worked in luxury travel for more than 10 years and now uses his expertise to sell expedition cruises at specialist agency Polar Routes.
James Turner, senior travel specialist
“If you’re selling the polar regions, make sure you know the seasons. For the Arctic, expeditions usually take place from May to September; in Antarctica, late October to March.
In terms of destination, I’d recommend agents suggest Svalbard as a first expedition cruise. This stunning archipelago of islands offers classic Arctic scenery and is famously known as the realm of the polar bear, but you can also spot whales, seals, Arctic fox, the Svalbard reindeer and plenty of birds.
After that Antarctica has to be on the list. I’d recommend Aurora Expeditions’ Antarctica Complete itinerary for a really in-depth trip. It goes further south than most other voyages and incorporates the Falklands and South Georgia which, for any nature enthusiast, has to be the most incredible destination on Earth. Standing among thousands of king penguins and elephant seals on a rocky beach, against a backdrop of colossal glaciers, is an experience beyond all comprehension.
For a second or third trip I’d suggest east Greenland – the sheer scale of the mountains, glaciers and icebergs in this region is impossible to describe; it’s mesmerising.
My top tip would be to highlight that expedition itineraries aren’t fixed; it’s subject to the local weather, wildlife and sea or ice conditions, so flexibility is important. It’s also worth noting that expedition cruises are all about being immersed in the great outdoors. There aren’t casinos, water slides or Broadway shows… Mother Nature provides the entertainment. And what a show it is!”
“Get clued up on product”
David has been in the travel industry for more than 10 years and is responsible for co-ordinating the marketing strategy at Exclusive Expeditions, a specialist cruise agency based in West Sussex, which sells tailor-made experiences in remote regions – from the South Pacific to Australia, Asia and Antarctica.
David Smith, marketing director
“It’s vital to really understand clients’ expectations, and to be clued up on both the destination and the nuances of the different products available.
We’ve had a few clients worried they might not be fit enough, especially when it comes to getting on and off the Zodiacs. Operators can advise on the level of fitness required for an excursion and there are always alternative options.
In terms of preconceptions, I think there are still a few who believe expedition experiences are only available on old naval vessels – which certainly isn’t the case! Thanks to the increase in new-build ships, the options are nearly limitless, and many of the luxury cruise operators have really embraced expedition, offering a six-star onboard experience.
But it’s not only about the polar regions; in recent years the Galapagos Islands have risen in prominence, as has river cruising in southeast Asia. For the Galapagos, Silversea Expeditions’ new Silver Origin looks to offer incredible onboard luxury. For Australia, Coral Expeditions would be my first choice, with cruises around The Kimberley and Great Barrier Reef.
If clients want something even more remote, suggest the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia. Aranui Cruises offers a 13-day itinerary here aboard Aranui 5, which is a cruise/cargo vessel and probably the most authentic way to explore this exotic, culturally-rich region.”
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