Cruise Planners' Vicky Garcia on an initiative to tap into clients' travel desires

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Cruise Planners recently launched the Where2Next survey, which asks advisors' clients where they want to travel for the next three years. Their answers will be used with other data to target market the right destinations to specific customers. The franchisor motivated consumers to take the survey with a giveaway of a three-night stay at the Grande Fiesta Americana Coral Beach in Cancun. Senior editor Jamie Biesiada spoke with Vicky Garcia, Cruise Planners' COO and co-owner, about how this latest survey fits into Cruise Planners' marketing strategy.

Vicky Garcia
Vicky Garcia

Q: Where did you get the idea for Where2Next?

A: We've been focusing on big data for the last several years now. We know what our customers buy, how much they spend. We know where they've been to, how many times they go. But we never knew other stuff, like what they like to do or where they want to go next. So for the last few years we've been capturing all those specific data points, [and we also] added in travel style; we asked them, via survey, what's their style? Do they like to golf? Are they into culinary travel? Are they LGBT?

We took it to the next level this year by rebranding it Where2Next and asking them where they want to travel. Let's get them dreaming about the future. We know that there's pent-up demand, but we didn't know how to get them thinking about specific things and places and desires.

Our goal was to keep that data right in front of our agents so when a person calls they know what their Where2Next survey results are. It's appended to [the traveler's] profile. And then we also append to their profile their insights, which [contain] demographic and psychographic information.

Q: So the information appears automatically in an advisor's customer relationship management system?

A: Yes. It's our own proprietary CRM, so it's all built right into there. It's really cool -- I wish I had that when I was starting off years and years ago.
To me the biggest thing is that, during these times, cost is an issue with marketing, because there are no ships sailing [and no money coming into the agency]. Pinpointing a marketing piece and making sure you're spending the money in the right place, taking the guestimation out of it, is super-important now more than ever.

Q: Cruise Planners handles marketing initiatives from the headquarters level on advisors' behalf. What kind of marketing are you using right now? Email? Social media? Print?

A: We do all of it. We've done less print in the last nine months, but we still have print going out; we ramped it back up a couple of months ago [after] we went to a screeching halt back in the spring. But we believe in print. We believe print works with travel, and we struggle with the fact that, gosh, now is really a good time to send printed materials. People are sitting at home dying to go through their magazines and mail, because usually they don't have time for it. But right now, it's entertainment.

Q: You ran a contest to incentivize survey-takers; is that a new tactic or one you've used before?

A: We've used it before. People love freebies. I mean, who doesn't? And we get participation for it, so it's great. We incentivize our agents, too, to get people to register, so if their client gets picked they sometimes win something. So they're out there promoting it, as well.

Q: What does the future hold for the way the travel agency community markets to consumers?

A: I think personalization is here for good. I think the days of a broad-stroke approach is too wasteful. I think you've got to be thoughtful in what you're doing because you've got to spend the right dollars. You've got to make sure you're spreading your dollars as much as possible. So the more you can personalize and target and show ROI, the better. In other words, I know I mailed this piece to this person; what did I get back in return? Gone are the days of spreading out 5 trillion flyers to see what sticks. You've got to be a lot more intentional. 

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