During a virtual press conference yesterday, Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative execs, Michelle Fee, CEO and founder and Vicky Garcia, COO and co-owner, informed us on what they’re doing to help travel advisors during this uncertain time.

At the center of their focus is helping you sell, while also helping you communicate with your clients without seeming insensitive. As Fee says, “we just changed our messaging.”

For the next six weeks Cruise Planners will send out automated messaging on behalf of the advisor focused on their Future Cruise Credit Campaign. These messages will go out every two weeks with a new message to remind clients with FCC’s to use them when they’re ready to travel again. The e-mail messages will feature a current brand offer and any FCC offer if applicable.

Advisors can also opt to send personal one-to-one messages to their clients, such as a virtual hug, to check in on them. Cruise Planners as created these virtual hugs that advisors can send to their clients, as well as new e-Cards with pre-written texts, and downloadable templates advisors can customize to stay in touch with their clients now.

Advisors have seen that their clients do appreciate the work they’ve done. As Cruise Planners execs said that they’ve heard from many advisors that their clients have sent them $200 checks now as a thank you for their services throughout the year, others have sent candy or wine as an act of thanks.

Other tools to help advisors stay in touch with clients from Cruise Planners are new “feel good” videos that will be automatically placed on the advisor’s website from Cruise Planners each month. This month’s message is more heartfelt versus a more sales focused message said Garcia. Advisors can also use these videos on their social media channels.

Bookings Are Up + Good News

Though travel is closed for now, Fee stated that bookings for 2021 are currently up. Cruising for example, is trending 15 percent higher—and not all of those are rebookings from cancelled trips in 2020. Europe is also trending as a top destination with 38 percent of bookings, noting that Europe rivers are about 50 percent of that business. Caribbean is ranking in at #2 with 23 percent, and Alaska is at the third spot with 15 percent of the bookings for 2021.

cruise planners
Cruise Planners’ Michelle Fee and Vicky Garcia.

When asked how Cruise Planners is handling the hit the cruise industry has felt during this pandemic, Fee did say that they “will pivot to promote efforts we see selling, but they won’t pivot away from cruise.” Cruise Planners doesn’t only promote sailings, a large part of their bookings are also land trips. “As soon as this over,” Fee says a customer told her, “I’m getting back on a ship. I’m not afraid.”

Though she predicts ships might start sailing at half or one-third of it’s capacity at first. However, they’re advising that travel advisors communicate with their clients and help ease their concerns. “We are telling agents just get people back to traveling,” says Fee.

“Advisors are navigating discussions in a sensitive manner to ensure their clients are fully aware of the options cruise lines are offering,” says Garcia. “Even if they are facing financial hardship people will want to travel.

“Advisors are helping clients explore options within their budgets and reminding clients the value of their FCCs are worth more now than the original purchase cost,” she adds. “In essence their vacation just got an upgrade, all they have to do to get the better offer is to apply that FCC to a new booking.”

During the virtual chat, Cruise Planners shared a few Facebook posts from their advisors, such as Jay Paul who posted, “Just booked three cabins on Crystal today….I called my client and asked how he was doing. He said he was tired of being stuck at home. I suggested he book a cruise to have something to look forward to. He and two of his neighbors are now booked.”

Jennifer Marshall Baptista shared on her social media, “Booked a 14 night Asia sailing for this September just now. Didn’t see that coming! People can’t be stopped from doing what they love!”

And, new advisor Janet Brabandt Castens who posted, “I’m a new agent and went to Star University in March. I’d like to announce my first booking, a Royal Caribbean Alaskan Cruise in September 2020! The tools and information from Stay U made the process so much easier. I want tp thakn my Franchise owner Brenda Rowinsky for all her help and support. Now I know I CAN DO THIS!”

This is a testament that reaching out to your clients now, can result in a booked trip for later this year or 2021. Use the resources available to you, and reach out to them with positive and encouraging messaging. Show them that you’re there for them when they’re ready, and don’t just reach out with a sales pitch.

Advisors Step Up

Garcia added, “The home-based agent stepped up and held clients’ hands through the process to get them back home, versus clients being on hold for a call center agent to help them. On the other side of this, the home-based agent will come out ahead.”

Cruise Planners is helping advisors come out ahead later with a variety of trainings they can take now. Garcia says, “We have more trainings for agents so they don’t feel home alone.” These opportunities include weekly tech tools trainings, video messages three times as week from Michelle, Vicky, and Theresa Scalzitti, chief sales officer; and CP Live every Wednesday with guest speakers. She adds, “they’re seeing us at least three times a week—it’s like an emotional counseling service.”

Future of Travel Predictions

Garcia says she thinks the cruise ships and CLIA will have to come up with a plan to get people traveling again. She suggests things might look different in the future, “passengers over 70 might need to travel with a doctor’s note; buffets as we know them will change.”

“I don’t think people are afraid of cruising, just afraid of the virus,” adds Fee. “If you have the antibodies, you’re safe to travel.”

Garcia adds, “It’s not a cruise ship illness.”

“Travel advisors who feel they are not getting the support they deserve from their current franchise or host are strongly encouraged to consider Cruise Planners,” says Garcia. “As always, we provide a steeply discounted franchise fee as low as $695 for current travel advisors.

We also work to make the transition to Cruise Planners as seamless as possible. We have created a Transition Benefits Checklist that outlines what to consider when transitioning from another franchise or host, specifically during the COVID-19 outbreak, and how Cruise Planners makes this process simple.” If you’d like to join the Cruise Planners franchise and get additional support during this time, check out this checklist.

For more updates on the travel industry during this pandemic, check our Recommend’s Coronavirus Updates Center.