Specialty cruising talked up at CruiseWorld

By Tom Stieghorst

2012CWFortLauderdaleFORT LAUDERDALE — Looking for a niche in the cruise business without a lot of competition? Think specialty cruising.

Only 18% of travel agents regularly sell specialty ships such as river, coastal, and masted sailing vessels, according to Bernie Blomquist, director of training for CLIA.

“If you’re not starting to think about specialty cruising, you’re making a big mistake,” said Blomquist.

About 70 travel agents heard Blomquist discuss the ins and outs of specialty cruises Wednesday at the Travel Weekly CruiseWorld and Home-Based Agent Show in Fort Lauderdale.

The reasons to sell specialty cruises go beyond reduced competition. They include greater client loyalty, higher commissions and smaller cruise lines eager for your business, Blomquist said.

Commissions are bigger because specialty-cruise clients have more to spend and the cruises are more inclusive. Often beverages and shore excursions are part of the cruise price.

“The result is you don’t have to do as much cross-selling and up-selling as you do on a conventional vessel,” he said.

Agents can also find a smaller, less bureaucratic supplier eager for clients when they sell specialty lines.

“It’s more like being a big fish in a small sea, rather than a small fish in a big sea. You get more attention from them,” Blomquist said.

Another plus is that clients who don’t like conventional cruises may be receptive to specialty cruises. Blomquist said specialty-cruise clients typically value an authentic experience, trust people over advertising and are most interested in destination.

“They think of the destination first and how to experience it second. If you prove that a cruise is the best way to experience the destination, they will take a cruise to go there,” he said.

Follow Tom Stieghorst on Twitter @tstravelweekly.

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