This year, Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative, kick-started its 25th anniversary celebration at its annual conference, which was themed The Greatest Show, a play off of the popular movie The Greatest Showman, but with the brand’s signature Cruisitude® carried throughout.
In front of 600 travel advisors and hundreds of travel partners, Cruise Planners founder and CEO, Michelle Fee highlighted how the company got started well before being a home-based travel agent was en vogue and even celebrated one of the agents who was the first-ever Cruise Planners travel agent nearly 25 years ago. It’s clear that Cruise Planners has a leg over the competition on a variety of points, and the driving visionary behind it all is Fee.
“Our difference is we don’t wait for opportunity, we create it,” Fee said, donning a “CP Green” dress. “It is never enough for Cruise Planners. Our 25th anniversary lets us reflect on where we came from, but more importantly, celebrate the passionate, dedicated group of travel advisors that make up the Cruise Planners family who are truly the heart of what makes Cruise Planners the greatest show in travel.”
The “Never Enough” Mantra was echoed throughout the Convention as the company stressed its dedication to continued innovation of the tools needed to drive travel advisor success which are working, as evident by the following sales growth numbers for 2018 over 2017:
- Total sales growth for 2018 over 2017: 20%
- River cruise sales growth: 55%
- Luxury travel sales growth: 19%
- Land travel sales growth: 21%
Cruise Planners is already seeing a strong growth of 28% in total sales for 2019 departures versus same time last year. Travel partners praised Cruise Planners throughout the convention, citing this sales growth coupled with the commitment of Cruise Planners travel advisors and executive team for their eagerness to continue growing their partnerships.
The company even proudly played a new custom anthem with lyrics such as; “We are proud to be different. We are proud to be green. We are CP.”
For 25 years, Cruise Planners has been leading the pack in marketing, technology and training in the travel industry. Launches and advancements announced at the convention by Fee, Vicky Garcia, COO and co-owner and Brian Shultz, CIO include:
- More Automation for its Network of Travel Advisors:
- Triggered Emails: Consistent refresh of Triggered Emails, a proactive series of automatic emails, which allow agents to stay in contact with their clients after booking and is completely automated for them with additional Post-Voyage offers sent through automated Triggered Emails reminding clients of exclusive past-guest, limited-time offers they can take advantage of.
- Hot Lists: A list of hot sales opportunities which identifies clients who have milestone birthdays, anniversaries, clients who haven’t make a booking in the last 12 months and clients who have an open onboard future cruise deposit, will now be automated.
- CP Marketing Hub: A better way to track and set goals through an enhanced CP Marketing Hub – all things marketing. With data being a bigger trend and Cruise Planners leading the way in leveraging consumer data to track and market to their clients, it’s now even easier for advisors to measure their goals and increase sales.
- Mobile App Enhancements – Cruise Planners continues to be the only home-based travel franchise to offer multiple mobile apps, both of which have been updated to improve usability.
- CP Mobile allows consumers to manage their trips while traveling, book future trips and connect with their travel advisor.
- CP Maxx, a mobile app for Cruise Planners travel advisors, will be relaunching in early 2019 to help them manage their business from the palm of their hand.
- New Websites for Travel Advisors: New travel agent sites with options for customization for land or luxury specialty – two areas that the brand continues to grow in.
- New, Stunning Consumer Websites – These mobile-responsive websites are in the design phase and will be launched in 2019. These new consumer sites will give agents the ability to have up to three different types of consumer-facing sites – Contemporary, Luxury and Land focused sites – to satisfy all client types and agent niches.
- Driving Leads to Advisors at No Cost – Cruise Planners will be refreshing their corporate web site with enhanced smart forms and data capture with the goal of driving more leads directly to their agents. Agents immediately receive an email notification and the client information is automatically added to the travel advisor’s a client database.
- Alexa Skills Now with Alexa Show Capabilities – After being the first in the industry to launch two Alexa skills last year, Cruise Planners continues to innovate with the visual version of the popular voice-activated technology, Alexa Show. This makes it even easier for agents to manage their business with an enhanced virtual personal assistant.
- Flight Tools Built in to CP Maxx – Cruise Planners agents can easily manage and maintain their full-service status through Cruise Planners’ partnerships with GMT, a top-rated air consolidator. The “Find a Flight” tool allows agents to easily compare rates for all classes of service and agents can mark up the rates when there is a substantial pricing advantage – another way to earn increased commissions for CP Advisors. Another integration for flights is the Flight Look-Up Tool, allowing agents to easily look up and log flight details for clients who may have purchased their own flights – a big time-saving for Cruise Planners agents.
- Group Price Advantage – This new feature within CP Maxx quickly alerts agents during the cruise search to identify a sailing where CP has a Home Office Group Price Advantage. They can easily compare current published rates for specific categories with Home Office Groups Rates. They can also perform a search to only see sailings where there is a Group Pricing Advantage.
- CP Partner Resources with Vacation Wizard Technology – A new interactive supplier partner database. When you have close to 200 travel suppliers in your database, finding the right supplier for your customer can be difficult. The new Vacation Wizard, within CP Partner Resources, allows agents to easily find the right supplier based on certain criteria such as travel style, travel category, land or cruise or destination specific. The tool narrows down and shows the results and even allows for quick comparison on commission levels and other supplier information such as destinations that they provide in their portfolio.
- Focus on Additional Video Content: CP Video Network already offers 20 different modern, fresh videos focusing on popular destinations, travel styles such as family, solo travelers, adults-only travel, luxury, land and much more. Cruise Planners announced adding new customization as video marketing continues to be an impactful way for travel advisors to drive sales.
- Data-Driven Travel Insight to Drive Marketing: Through the brand’s “Travel Styles” advisors are able to find out more about what their customers’ desires are for upcoming travel and better market to them. By focusing on top-performing niches including foodies, millennials, adventure travelers and solo travelers, the brand will help agents close more sales.
“Our agents are the envy of the travel industry and we give them the tools they need to be the Greatest Show,” Garcia said. “After 25 years in business supporting travel advisors, we are always delivering the best tools designed for travel advisors to increase their sales and positively change the travel world.”
The group was among the first travel advisors to sail on the “edgiest” ship at sea, the Celebrity Edge, as travel advisors embarked on the ship’s inaugural sailing out of Port Everglades.