Society Sails Again

Society Expeditions, the one-ship adventure line based in Seattle, is actively working to reestablish and solidify its relationship with travel agents.

By: Theresa Norton Masek

Society Expeditions, the one-ship adventure line based in Seattle, is actively working to reestablish and solidify its relationship with travel agents.

“We began operating our new ship in mid-April, so the dust has somewhat settled,” said Society President Michael Lomax. “It was a reinvention, or at least a relaunch, of Society Expeditions.”

Society existed for two years without a ship after its World Discoverer ran aground in the Solomon Islands. The company planned to repair the vessel, but it was pillaged and damaged during civil unrest. The ship remains aground.

Society then acquired a vessel it describes as “a luxury expedition ship.” Also named World Discoverer, it underwent a renovation before embarking on a program of exotic cruises for Society.

“Our occupancy rates are gradually increasing,” Lomax said. “It’s a 160-passenger vessel and the average passenger load is 150. Although the ship would carry many more, we carry a large number of single travelers.”

Still, “It’s a relatively slow process from a business perspective to relaunch a company,” Lomax said. “We’re getting our name back into the marketplace and making sure our reputation that existed for decades is still intact.”

Society has always specialized in Antarctic sailings and has seven cruises scheduled for the upcoming winter, when it’s summer there.

“We have seven sailings in Antarctica from November to the end of February, and all but two sailings are sold out, which is quite good,” Lomax said. “South Pacific sailings are generally popular and selling very well.”

To rebuild travel agent relationships that may have fallen dormant over the past two years, Society is building its sales staff and increasing commissions and bonuses.

“We’ve been setting up cooperative marketing programs with agencies and tour operators, producing specific brochures by destination for travel agents,” Lomax said. “And we’ve expanded our sales department to serve as a greater resource for travel agents.”

The small company now has six inside salespeople and three on the marketing staff.

Commissions as high as 25% are paid, depending on production and various bonuses offered.

“Considering the extent of our programs, the length of the cruises and the price points, those are substantial earnings for travel agents,” Lomax said. He said about 90% of the company’s sales are made by travel agents, either individually or through tour operator packages.

This fall and next spring the World Discoverer will operate six itineraries in the South Pacific, all detailed in the 2002-2003 Oceania brochure that was recently mailed to agents.

The South Pacific cruises are 10 to 25 days long. Fares for this fall’s voyages start at $3,255 per person, double, including shore excursions, gratuities, port charges, wine and beverages, pre- and post-cruise hotel stays and transfers.

In 2003, the company will operate six 18- to 20-night programs in the Russian Far East and remote Alaska. Fares start at $7,265 per person, double.

Call 800-548-8669.

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