Crystal Steps Up Drive For Cruisers

Theresa Norton Masek CANNES, France After an admittedly “horrible” year, Crystal Cruises executives are exhorting travel agents to help propel new cruisers to the upscale line as it works to re-engineer and strengthen itself. “Hasn’t this been a horrible year, a year we’d all like to see end?” David Mor

By: Theresa Norton Masek

CANNES, France After an admittedly “horrible” year, Crystal Cruises executives are exhorting travel agents to help propel new cruisers to the upscale line as it works to re-engineer and strengthen itself.

“Hasn’t this been a horrible year, a year we’d all like to see end?” David Morris, senior vice president of sales, asked the line’s top-selling travel agents.

Morris made his comments during Crystal’s annual travel agent gala cruise on which Platinum Alliance members are honored. Agents who make $350,000 in Crystal sales are admitted to the alliance.

This year, based on 2002 sales, 79 agents achieved that rank and collectively generated $72 million in Crystal sales, or about 30 percent of the line’s revenue, Morris said.

“That $72 million next year could easily be $100 million,” Morris said, offering agents 10 tips on increasing revenue including making Crystal sales reps and executives “work harder for you.”

Later, Crystal President Gregg Michel spoke to agents at the gala banquet at a luxury hotel in Vence, France.

“It’s been a challenging year in 2003, and 2004 will continue to be challenging,” he said. “Why is that? We’ve had a 57 percent increase in capacity.”

Michel noted that the demand for Crystal Cruises grew 20 percent “quite an accomplishment in a year that’s been very challenging” but added that capacity in the luxury market is expected to grow 25 percent next year.

On a positive note, Michel predicted that “the second half of this year is going to be stronger. The wind is behind us and at our backs, at least in the U.S.”

Reinforcing the line’s support of the trade, Michel urged agents to take advantage of Crystal’s recent offer to pay an additional 5 percent override for every first-time Crystal passenger booked between Sept. 8 and Jan. 31 on any 2004 cruise.

“Please pay attention to this program,” he said. “I would love to give away that money.”

For its part, Crystal is striving to “reinforce and validate” the brand in 2004. That effort includes lower prices, renovation of its other two ships, and new initiatives to drive business to travel agencies.

“We’ve revised fares for 2004, not only on lead-in prices but on Category B staterooms with verandas,” said Adam Leavitt, senior vice president of marketing. “We’re offering business-class air upgrades as low as $998.”

Michel noted that “aggressive pricing,” with per diem rates as low as $160 on some Panama Canal cruises, is required to attract new and repeat cruisers.

The Crystal Harmony underwent a $12 million renovation last fall, and the Symphony is scheduled for a similar overhaul in May.

The line is still evaluating bids for ship renovation work, but is considering building a new spa, expanding the computer center, redoing the library, adding a Vintage Room for special wine functions and updating penthouse accommodations.

New advertising has been designed, and Crystal is considering its first television ad campaign.

“We’re producing some spots, possibly to air on cable,” Leavitt said. “This is something we’ve never done, but we are committed to trying to increase awareness and bring in new business, and there’s no more powerful medium than television.”

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