Seeing Green at Crystal Cruises

Crystal executives, agents profit heavily through Web promotion and leads

By: By Marilyn Green

Seeing Green at Crystal Cruises // (c) 2009

Crystal Serenity

At Crystal Cruises’ 19th-annual Sales Achievement Awards Gala aboard Crystal Serenity in late May, agents clapped and whistled as senior vice president of market and sales Bill Smith opened his tie and banded it around his head to lead a revival for hard economic times. As he did this, he roared, “You’ve got to be taking care of yourself!” and urging agents to random acts of kindness: “Give ’em a kidney!”

In the absence of Nitsa Lewis, Crystal’s vice president of marketing, Smith reappeared in a wig, mask and sandals with pants rolled up under a skirt to give her presentation, telling agents that 94 percent of the affluent market plans to spend the same or more on vacations, motivated by special offers, good pricing and conspicuous value. Guests learn about Crystal primarily through friends and relatives and travel agents, he said. In choosing a cruise, the destination (nearly 62 percent) and the line’s reputation (almost 60 percent) were the biggest factors.

Lewis’ stand-in also added that leads from the newly redesigned Crystal Web site produced 61 percent more than direct mail and that after the free introductory period for referrals, 80 percent of agents elected to continue with the program. Referral agents for the "get a quote" connection on the site have been charged a fee of $750 per quarter, but the program is now free to Platinum agents.

Smith said that during each quarter last year an average of 44 agencies participated in the lead program, which generated 9,276 bookings and $59 million in revenue. In informal discussions, agents expressed great enthusiasm for the leads program, with even the highest producers very pleased about the amount of business generated. And Crystal is now expanding its database with two million names from Cohorts added to the two million names from Yankelovich for promotion and leads.

The importance of the Internet was underlined as executives discussed research that indicated the majority of consumers take their information from the Web rather than print, and Scott Kibota, director of market planning, told agents the vast majority of wealthy clients are online regularly.