Former Cunard Line boss Peter Shanks says there has never been a better time for agents to sell cruise in more than a decade

With 12 years’ experience in travel retailing and 12 years in cruise, I can tell you there has never been a better time for travel agents to be selling cruise holidays.

Cruise lines have committed to supporting agents. Discounting has largely disappeared, which has resulted in less confusion and shopping around for customers, and better margins for agents.

There has never been a better range of cruise holidays to sell, along with excellent training available from the cruise lines. Clia UK & Ireland is doing a better job than ever in supporting agents.

This is all very positive stuff, but there are two more compelling reasons as to why now is a good time to focus on improving sales.

Cruising is all-inclusive

First, the power of all-inclusive. Hats off to Tui Travel and Thomas Cook in the traditional holiday market sector. In the past two years both have reacted to tougher economic times by introducing more all-inclusive offerings at better value and better quality at exclusive hotels.

They have also communicated this clearly with aspirational TV campaigns featuring the holiday experience rather than price.

The message has been understood, leading to great experiences for customers and impressive financial results.

The all-inclusive nature of cruising has always been a real strength, but in the current environment there is an opportunity for agents to make more of this.

You can quite easily go on a two-week cruise and not spend a penny – with all your food, tea, coffee, soft drinks, entertainment and destinations included.

Even better – a number of lines are currently offering on-board credit or free drinks packages, making the deal even sweeter.

Agents offer reassurance

Second, travel agents have the powerful advantage of providing reassurances and recommendations.

We should all remember that to a first-time cruiser the choice of cruises can look bewildering and many of the old misconceptions about cruising are still out there.

One of the most important things is making sure the right customer goes on the right cruise.

If they do go on the right cruise, then they are guaranteed a fabulous holiday and the chances are that they will be back to book many cruises in the future.

Research shows that first-time cruisers are hungry for information – they will scour the internet to search all the cruise lines, agencies and comparison sites.

But all the research I have seen in a number of markets highlights the vital role that travel agents can play in recommending the right cruise, cabin and destination to give consumers the reassurance to make the booking.

So, with plenty of capacity, exciting and innovative ships, plenty of choice, real all-inclusive, guaranteed quality, a level playing field, training support, cracking offers from cruise lines and some healthy average prices and margins – it’s time to go for it!