CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Before it was bought by Grand Expeditions in
June 2001, yacht-charter operator The Moorings had no interest in
working with agents.
"Traditionally these vacations were sold through specialized
brokers instead of agents," said Lex Raas, the company's president.
"It's only recently that we have been able to make the product easy
for agents to sell."
Apparently, easy does it: The Moorings now is the top producer
among the eight luxury tour operators that make up Grand
Expeditions, which includes such agent-friendly operators as
Travcoa, TCS Expeditions and Country Walkers.
Furthermore, The Moorings is reporting a 30% increase in revenue
this year over 2002.
Part of Grand Expedition's strategy in buying The Moorings was
to expand it through agency sales. To do so, the company singled
out crewed charters -- as opposed to its bareboat charters and
self-piloted or skippered power yachts -- as a product easy for
agents to pitch as a personalized alternative to cruising.
"The crewed yacht is good for those who know nothing about
sailing," said Raas. "It comes with goodies, food, a captain and a
hostess/chef. They live on the boat and do everything. They
maintain the boat, they are entertainers."
Crewed charters have no fixed itinerary. "The guests decide with
the captain on a daily basis what they want to do," said Raas.
"It's very personalized."
Of more than 700 yachts in The Moorings' fleet, 50 are upgraded
with luxury appointments and offered as crewed charters. They can
be sailed from any of 26 international destinations, most of which
are in the Caribbean and Mediterranean.
The Moorings, which began its relationship with the retail
sector through Virtuoso, also is affiliated with the Leisure Travel
"We offer training," said Raul Bermudez, The Mooring's vice
president of sales and marketing, global. "We set up a group of
agents, have lectures, teach them about the product. We attend the
Virtuoso Travel Marts, spend time talking with the agents about our
product and taking their feedback."
The Moorings also has started to reach out to the agency
community at large.
"We are marketing our brochures with a note to 'Call your travel
agent,' " said Bermudez. "We've gone through the learning curve,
and now we can start to see the results."