Special Report: Uniworld pledges to prioritise trade sales investment

Isobel Turner reports as line hosts 50 agents on Ganges sailing and Golden Triangle tour

Uniworld River Cruises has pledged to continue prioritising spending on the trade over direct channels, as it hailed the success of its first long-haul Ultra-Luxury Showcase.

The river cruise specialist hosted 50 agents on board Ganges Voyager II in India earlier this month, following its inaugural ultra-luxury fam events in Europe last year.

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Speaking on board the vessel, managing director Chris Townson said agents would remain the line’s “biggest investment” as he expressed confidence that those on the trip would increase their sales upon their return.

“Getting agents on our ships to understand the product is the best thing we can do,” he said.

The showcase’s three-day sailing was a shortened version of the seven-night sailing that forms part of the operator’s India’s Golden Triangle & The Sacred Ganges itinerary.

Townson added: “I used to work in reservations and, when I got to go on trips, I’d come back with an amazing view of where I’d been. You can talk about your experience and fill people with confidence.

“I’d rather spend a little more money here, because the results will prove that these agents will go back and be inspired to communicate and sell this trip to their clients.”

Townson said Uniworld was seeing a return to some pre-pandemic booking trends in a “buoyant year” for the industry, including a longer booking curve for long-haul trips.

He also said his sales team was “buzzing” with ideas for future trade engagement, including building on the success of the India fam.

The trip was the largest long-haul fam in the operator’s history and follows similar events held across Europe, where some 1,000 agents have been hosted on Uniworld ships in Budapest, Paris and Venice at six events in the past 18 months.

Townson said the ongoing commitment to fams was a “no-brainer” for Uniworld. He also said his team was considering additional incentives and trips and would “move at pace” to continue its agent education programme.

In the short term, he said his focus was on ensuring agents who joined the trip in India were fully supported upon their return to the UK, adding: “We will give them all the assets they need to help fast-track communication with their clients. I’ll do whatever I can to simplify their work.”

Delhi Rickshaw Panache Shot

Agents’ views

Jason Treadwell, Panache Cruises
“The whole trip has been absolutely amazing. From the minute we arrived in New Delhi, it’s just been seamless. The local tour guides are second to none – they are the best in the business. It’s an intense itinerary, but it’s worth it.”

Jenna Skilton, Kuoni
“Travelling to somewhere like India would be difficult on your own, but doing it as a group with Uniworld has made it a flawless experience. Doing it this way means you can see everything in a controlled environment, so it would be really great for our customers.”

Millie Windeler, Ponders Travel
“With in-depth itineraries such as this one, you can’t get a good feel for it unless you’ve experienced it yourself, and I feel much more confident selling India now I’ve seen it. I definitely think it’s something our customers would love. I wouldn’t have necessarily thought so beforehand, but I’m confident of that now.

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