Saga’s 2022 cruise programme is already 45% sold with sales through the trade in three of the last six months higher than in the same three months of 2019.
Speaking at the launch of the line’s new ship Spirit of Adventure, head of trade sales Iain Powell revealed that agents now accounted for 20% of sales, up from 7% in 2018 when he joined.
He said: “Agents have sold more cruises in three of the last six months than they did in those same three months in 2019, which was itself a record year. It’s remarkable and taken me by surprise.”
Powell pointed out the increase in proportion of trade sales was also against increased capacity, and said the strong sales outlook for 2022 already meant the line would likely release its 2023 programme this winter, instead of waiting until its usual March launch.
“Our fantastic sales position for 2022 means we will bring out our 2023 programme earlier than we normally do,” he confirmed.
Powell described the trade as “vitally important” to the Saga Cruises business, adding that agents had been instrumental in achieving a 70% retention rate of bookings from those whose cruises were cancelled due to the pandemic.
“A large part of that success has been down to agents helping us to retain that business and transferring it to a forward booking,” he said.
“That gives you an idea of how well it’s gone [changing from being just direct-sell],” he said.
Powell revealed Saga would be resuming its trade ship visit programme this autumn but confirmed it would operate under current Covid protocols, which means all guests and visitors must be double vaccinated and have a lateral flow test before boarding.
He said the line would continue to utilise technology to support agents, which he said was even more important with both of the line’s ships back in service from next week.
Saga currently runs webinars, Microsoft Teams meetings and breakfast seminars with trade partners.
He added that he hoped to build his trade sales team back up over time, after it was cut from 10 to three due to the pandemic.