Windstar Head of Sales UK & Ireland Augustus Lonsdale said agents should take advantage of the ‘great rates’ available from the cruise line to book their own holidays.
While he is planning to organise some fam trips and ship visits for agents this year, he said he won’t host as many as in 2023, but suggested agents organise their own heavily-discounted trips instead.
The cruise line offers trade rates via Touchdown, a staff travel club open to anyone who works in the travel industry.
“We do great business with agents who have travelled with us, and you can go on a holiday where you’re not expected to work but come away with something special that will make a difference to your clients’ lives,” said Augustus.
All Windstar’s UK sales come via the trade and so far booked revenue is up 135% year on year, he added. “January is stronger so far than any other month of 2023, and we are only 18 days in.”
Awareness of the brand has been boosted by the first of two episodes of the Channel 5 TV show Cruising with Susan Calman that were filmed onboard its sailing yacht Wind Spirit in Tahiti. The second episode will be aired on Friday 19 January.
“Cruising with Susan Calman has started to drive organic rather than switch-sales,” said Augustus, who also revealed that the line is planning to launch its first dedicated UK website within the next couple of months.
“This will help to raise awareness of the brand and drive more bookings to travel agents,” he added. “There will be a number on there for people to contact us, but we’re not planning to take business away from agents, we just need to do more ourselves to promote the brand, we can’t leave agents to do it all.”
Windstar announced this week that it will keep a ship in the Mediterranean next winter following the successful launch of its first winter season sailing from Rome. President Christopher Prelog said bookings for the 2024/25 programme should be even better than this winter as the cruises have gone on sale much earlier.
“There is huge demand for the Med in the winter when most tourists have gone away and also the temperatures are not searingly hot. We think the next winter season in the Med will be a hit, we’re onto a new trend here,” he added.
Some 10% of the customers booked on this winter’s Mediterranean cruises are from the UK and Christopher said he expects this to grow. “The UK is such an increasingly important market to Windstar and we will make sure we continue to push this market through UK travel agents and suppliers.”