Windstar Cruises’ UK boss has outlined plans to grow the line’s sales by 30% compared to 2017 levels over the next 12 months as its revamped mixed vessel fleet resumes operations.
Anna Perrott, UK and Ireland business development manager, is currently hosting 17 UK agents on the upgraded and lengthened Star-plus vessel Star Legend on a Mediterranean sailing from Barcelona to Piraeus.
The all-suite ship now has 50 extra cabins, increasing the capacity to 312 passengers, and a new main dining room called Amphora after an 84-foot section was inserted during a spell in dry dock at a Fincantieri ship yard.
Star Legend docked in Barcelona last week
Speaking on the fam trip sailing last week, Perrott told Travel Weekly: “This is the first time we’ve heavily focused on the UK market. We’ve dipped our toe in a little bit a few years ago but unfortunately it did not work out.
“This time we’ve come back with a vengeance, and we want to make sure that we’re doing it properly in the UK, so the plans are to get the brand name out there and let people know that there are different styles of ships [in Windstar’s fleet].”
She added: “We needed someone full time in the UK which we did not have previously. We needed someone pushing what the UK trends were, what are UK clients looking for and now that’s something that we can really look into.
“Any feedback that we get from this fam trip, we can try and implement things on board that will make it more appealing to the British market.”
Windstar has three Wind-class sailing vessels – Wind Star, Wind Surf and Wind Spirit – and Star-plus ships – Star Breeze, Star Pride and Star Legend. In the entire fleet, five of the six vessels have now resumed operations.
All six vessels have been upgraded during the pandemic as part of a $320 million programme to overhaul the fleet and build in air filtration systems on board.
The Star-plus class were cut in half and a new section was added, and the Wind-class vessels’ interiors were “completely ripped out” so they looked like the Star-plus class, Perrott added.
Spas have been added to each Windstar vessel and Spanish tapas restaurant Cuadro 44 has also been added to Wind Surf as part of the programme.
Nearly 80 agents had been scheduled to see Star Breeze in Tower Bridge, London, last month. However, the event was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions in place at the time, Perrott said.
Asked about future ship visits, when Windstar offers four departures out of Leith, Scotland, in 2022 and 2023, Perrott said: “We’re hoping to get as many travel agents on board to really experience the product.”
She added that agents would be invited from “all over the UK” on ship visits. “We want people to get involved with us as much as possible, work with us and help develop the brand,” she explained. “Agents are really key to us because we’re only an agent sell. We do not have any direct sell at all. It’s important to us that we get the right people on board.”
Perrott said that Windstar was looking to recruit and expand the UK business development team. She explained: “We’re not going to stick with one person in the UK as the brand grows we will also grow our team.
“We will then look to keep on expanding from there onwards.”
The line currently has three modules on the Online Travel Training platform which agents can complete to boost their product knowledge.
The line’s best-ever sales performance in the UK came in 2017. Perrott said: “We’re hoping to grow the UK market in our first year by 30% [compared with 2017]. We’re counting this as our first year and then there will be bigger growth targets after that.
“The main thing is we want people to know the difference between the two different types of ships – ones with sails and ones like [Star Legend].
“Some of the clients that want a sailing experience are different from the clients that want a luxury yacht style experience. It’s about finding the balance. A sailing experience with sails is completely different to one stepping on board a luxury yacht.”