AE Expeditions has hailed the success of UK agents as it reports a 53% year-on-year growth in trade sales.
In an interview with Travel Weekly, UK managing director Jos Dewing said the trade is responsible for 95% of the line’s sales, and he is committed to supporting UK agents to continue their “phenomenal” performance in 2024.
The line grew its trade sales team from two to four this year and is “considering” expanding further if demand remains at current levels.
“Our financial year ended in September and we grew our trade business by 53% which is massive and we’re really proud,” said Dewing.
“We’ve done a lot of hands on training and events with trade partners to support that growth and our engagement from agents has been absolutely fantastic.
“We are an Australian company so Australia remains our top source market but the UK and US are tied for second place which shows the importance of UK agents.”
Dewing said AE Expeditions is changing its consumer-facing strategy in 2024 so instead of hosting destinations showcases for customers alone, the line will invite agents along and advise all bookings be made through the trade.
He said the value of agents when booking a polar expedition “cannot be understated”, and he would prefer customers book through agents rather than directly with the line.
“As a sales team, we are entirely focused on trade business, not on booking direct which is why we’re changing our strategy,” he said.
“When you book a polar expedition you need the support of an agent as it’s incredibly important that a professional talks you through everything you need to know.
“Additionally, the protection you get from agents is paramount in case you have issues with your travel, for example, if you need to be in Svalbard to board a ship but there is a strike and your flight gets cancelled, you need an agent to support you.
“I’m happy to say it: I would prefer people to book through agents.”
Dewing said the line is in a “really good position” going into 2024, with “a lot less availability for the year ahead” than at this time last year.
To further support the trade, AE Expeditions is launching a new training platform containing modules, webinar recordings and downloadable collateral. Dewing said he hopes the platform will launch before Christmas, although a date is not set in stone.
The line will also run two ship visits in Scotland in 2024, with dates to be confirmed in the new year, as well as two fam trips; one to Antarctica and one to the Northwest Passage.
When asked if the line plans to expand its fleet, Dewing said: “It’s no secret that there are plans for a third ship.
“When that’s coming is yet to be completely defined but it is certainly our ambition to launch a third, purpose-built expedition ship in the future.”