Advantage plans to double the number of agents signed up to its Latitude cruise community within the next year after seeing more than a 150% increase in cruise bookings over the past 12 months.
Currently, the free-to-join community has 300 members and Advantage is aiming to grow this to 600 by the end of 2024.
Throughout next year, Advantage is also aiming to double the number of ship visits for Latitude members to at least 20.
Newly-promoted Senior Commercial Manager – Cruise Jonny Peat said the aim is for every Latitude member to visit at least one ship.
Speaking at the annual Advantage Cruise Conference in Paris aboard Uniworld’s Joie de Vivre, Jonny added: “Cruise has become a lucrative sector for members and with the cruise market set for further growth in 2024, our members are looking for more information, greater insight, additional tools and superior product knowledge to fully leverage the commercial benefit of retailing cruise, and that’s what we are aiming to deliver to them.
“In our experience, ship visits make all the difference to members and result in higher sales volumes, so that’s a key focus for us in 2024.”
Advantage is also planning to co-host a ‘first-timers FAM’, which will allow members who are either new to travel or new to cruise to support Advantage’s ‘Yet to cruise’ focus.
Additionally, an ‘Exclusive Turn of Year Cruise Briefing’ will take place for members, as well as a series of regional training days with cruise lines, details of which will follow in the New Year, with Latitude members getting first dibs on places.
Head of Commercial John Sullivan said: “Through all our planned cruise activity for 2024 we are demonstrating how important the cruise sector is to us and the importance we place on the relationships we have with our cruise partners.
“With additional dedicated resources and even more focus, we are confident that we’ll capitalise on this booming sector in 2024.”
Advantage has seen ocean cruise sales rise 166% this year, while river cruise bookings are up 58%.
However, CLIA UK & Ireland Managing Director Andy Harmer (above, third from right) said that in 2022, almost a third of first-timer cruisers booked a river rather than an ocean cruise.
“Never assume that we are reliant on ocean cruise customers migrating to river cruises. Don’t forget that river cruising is always an option, but it doesn’t always appeal to the same people as ocean cruises.”
Andy told delegates that, for the first time, a million cruises were booked in the first half of the year, with bookings up 15% on 2019. “This was mostly down to the hard work of our travel agent partners,” he added.
But Celebrity Cruises new Vice President and Manging Director EMEA Giles Hawke (above first left) told the conference that only a third of Advantage members have sold a Celebrity cruise, saying it represented a ‘huge opportunity’.
Jonny attributed the success of Advantage’s cruise business in 2023 to the Partnership’s strengthened commercial proposition with its cruise partners, as well as the introduction of the Latitude brand.
“The focus we have placed on Latitude has really paid off and the Latitude brand is now fully established and a key driver behind the success that we have seen this year. The Latitude Cruise Community is currently 300 members-strong and growing, and we know that those engaging in this programme are seeing the huge commercial benefit of being part of this community.”
CLIA membership across Advantage has increased five-fold compared to 2022 and John Sullivan said this has played a role in the organisation’s strong performance in cruise.
“Our close working relationship with CLIA plays a key part of our success and we thank them for their support in what has been a phenomenal year of growth for us,” said John Sullivan. “Our ambition looking ahead is to continue to grow our share of the market in line with the ever-growing industry capacity.
“Over the next five years, there is due to be a further $44 billion invested in new ships alone, so we have lots to aim for, as well as lots of opportunities to develop new products for our members.”