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Silversea Cruises’ recently launched group sales program for new bookings on 2017 and 2018 departures is designed to give agents more choices, greater flexibility and more time to get results. Agents with existing 2017 or 2018 groups booked under the previous group sales program can convert to the new program if they wish; each booking within the group would then be subject to the most current applicable fare.
The new program allows one group booking per ship each month, per travel agency. It includes price protection for 90 days (Silversea will otherwise raise rates as space fills); tour conductor requirements as low as one per nine berths; and onboard spending credits of up to $300 per suite, protected even if only one suite sails. The onboard spending credits are now applicable on Silver Explorer, Silver Discoverer and Silver Cloud expedition cruises, as well as on the line’s seagoing ships. The program is combinable with Silver Select, Early Booking Bonus and promotional Economy Class Air/Business Class Air rates, along with Venetian Society Savings, Extended Voyage Savings and Onboard Savings.
There are some serious incentives to selling a group on Silversea, including no required deposit — as opposed to individual suite bookings that require a 25 percent deposit due within seven days from the date the individual suite is reserved and/or the guest name is provided. In some cases, agents prorate the tour conductor savings throughout the group, as well.
“This is a program designed to stimulate agents to be proactive rather than reactive,” said Mark Conroy, managing director of the Americas for Silversea. “They are overwhelmed with promotional offers, and we are challenged to get their attention and follow-through when it’s often necessary to deal with what is urgent rather than what is important.”
“It allows the agent to differentiate the product being offered and encourages them to concentrate on particular dates when they can offer something special,” he added. “This gives the agent another arrow in the quiver to close the deal, and it helps us create stronger relationships with agents and grow business together.”
Conroy says agents typically sit down with their sales representatives and plan their groups a year or two out; some immediately request group space when itineraries are announced. Under the new program, there is no limit to the number of group requests on a particular sailing until a departure is filled.
“It’s about who gets to market first,” Conroy said. “Sometimes we can almost tell when a particular cruise will be very successful if a bunch of agents jump on it when the announcement is made.”
Agents may set up a pied piper to help fill the group; if it is a person of note with a strong track record, Silversea may guarantee the accommodations for the pied piper to ensure that, however large or small the group is, the magnet person will be sailing.
Conroy says agents also tend to go after affinity groups, extended family groups, special-interest clients and repeat passengers, with the agent often sailing, too.
“An agent will tell clients, ‘I’m sailing to the Baltics on such and such a date, and I’d love to have you come with me,’” Conroy said. "Groups are a great way for agents to maximize their earning potential. Now, with the new program, they have more time and more ways to close the sale on a broad range of exciting itineraries."