Cruise Planners Home-Based Business Model Primed to Support Travelers Amid COVID-19; Redirecting Marketing Efforts with Heartfelt Messages
Michelle Fee, CEO and Founder, and Vicky Garcia, COO and Co-owner at Cruise Planners, hosted a virtual press conference sharing what is happening at Cruise Planners and across the travel industry in response to COVID-19.
Here is the insider’s edition on what Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative, is focused on tackling during these unprecedented times:
· Finding ways to lessen the financial impact of COVID-19 on the company and it’s network of advisors
· Supporting their home-based travel advisor network as they will be the key player in the resurgence of the industry
· Protecting client investments by offering advice, tools and support to its travel advisor network
· Transitioning through the many phases of this crisis; from normal business to emergency response to recovery mode
Cruise Planners – Cautiously Optimistic
According to the NY Post, last week’s total booking volume for 2021 cruises has “gone up 9 percent versus the same time last year.” “Despite cruise ships currently being quarantined amid the Coronavirus pandemic, Cruise Planners is also still experiencing a strong 2021 pacing at 15% ahead for cruise departures,” says Fee.
“We are doing comparably well because Cruise Planner’s Home Office Team is fully invested in supporting its nation-wide travel advisor network and protecting their client’s travel investments. The foundation of our home-based model is based on grassroots community networking and personal relationships which is why we feel we may be faring better compared to online travel agencies and brick and mortar agencies. While the numbers are changing daily and being closely monitored, right now, cruise departures for 2021 are leading with Europe as a top destination at 38% of the mix with a large focus on European River cruising, followed by Caribbean making up 23% of the mix and Alaska trending with 15% according to the company’s latest revenue reports.”
A contributing factor of Cruise Planner’s resilience is its immediate transition from normal business—to emergency response—and eventually moving toward recovery mode. In a matter of 24 hours, its tech-savvy corporate support team, lovingly called the Home Office Team, was able to transition into a 100% remote workforce. The travel agent network of 2,500+ agents in all 50 states were already working from home, so while this developing story was unfolding, they were able to consistently service their clients as other call centers or brick-and-mortar retailers were dealing with local ordinance demands to close non-essential businesses.
Cruise Planners also quickly pivoted its marketing approach. While others went completely dark in their marketing efforts, Cruise Planners shifted to a primarily digital approach of sending heartfelt messages providing hope for the future of travel, exploration and discovery and human connection on behalf of its travel advisor network.
Cruise Ships in the Headlines
Throughout the negative publicity that cruise ships have received over the course of this public health crisis, travel advisors have been on the front lines fielding questions, concerns and even providing emotional support services to clients. Travel advisor’s heroic efforts from the start of the Coronavirus outbreak indicate travel advisors will be key to the resurgence of the industry. Cruise Planners continues providing travel advisors with the infrastructure and communication tools to help them strengthen relationships with their clients. New e-cards with pre-written text, downloadable communication templates and specialized social media campaigns have been provided to Cruise Planner’s travel advisors. You can see the evolving conversations happening on social media following the hashtag #CPStrong.
Cruise Planners is offering advice, tools and support to its travel advisor network to protect client investments and help maintain agent commissions by arming them with the latest supplier cancellation policy updates as well as providing direct access to travel supplier executives. In the last three weeks, advisors have heard from executives at Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Globus Family of Brands and Apple Leisure Group with more to come. They have been sharing what is happening with their brands and what trends they are experiencing.
“There are thousands of people holding on to future travel credits that still need to be rebooked. We are hearing straight from the experts how to adjust travelers’ itineraries and take advantage of the rebooking offers available to them,” says Garcia. “It is a win/win for clients and agents when a client rebooks a future vacation since many suppliers are offering value adds and perks to those who apply their future cruise credit towards an upcoming vacation.”
Cost-saving Measures to Bolster Longevity
“In today’s world, it is vital for companies to look inward and determine what actions need to be taken to lessen the financial impact of COVID-19,” said Michelle Fee, CEO and Founder of Cruise Planners. “While we did have a small round of layoffs, we managed to maintain 90% of our workforce. Many business owners are having to face this reality. It is excruciating to make these financial decisions because they have a direct impact on the families and communities we love.”
As is recommended in times of financial uncertainty, salaries were reduced on a sliding scale across all departments including executives who are taking the highest pay cut. Fee and co-owner and COO, Vicky Garcia, volunteered to forgo 100% of their salaries and are working hard to lead the company through a full recovery eventually.
“We all need to make a collective sacrifice now to ensure we can operate as a business when the cruise ships are back to providing amazing vacation experiences and airplanes are transporting travelers instead of medical supplies,” Fee said. “We know the value of the travel advisor will be key to help reignite the travel industry.”