Bookings, ahoy -- it looks like a solid Wave season awaits agents in 2018.

Avoya Travel recently released its 2018 Wave Season Tips and Predictions survey, and things are looking rosy: 80% of agents surveyed said they expect the 2018 Wave season to be the same as, or better than, the 2017 Wave season.

Overall, Avoya said 2017 marked a strong sales year, including Wave season. That is in keeping with CLIA's findings in its most recent Travel Agent Cruise Industry Outlook report: More than 80% of the agents surveyed said their cruise volume increased in 2017, up from 73% in 2016.

Additionally, CLIA found that nearly half, 44%, of respondents said their cruising volume has increased more than 10% in 2017. And some more good news: Spend is up, as well, with 78% more cruisers spending more money on travel, compared to 70% in 2016.

The Avoya agents cited a number of reasons for forecasting growth in the year ahead: A strong economy and stock market; increased inventory from new ships and itineraries; and pent-up demand from those who may have held off traveling in 2017.

Growth in all product segments is expected by Avoya, but river cruising, upper premium and luxury cruising are expected to grow particularly fast. One Avoya agent, Lisa Long, co-owner of Luxury Vacations LLC, said she's noticing premium customers moving to upper-premium.

As far as destinations Avoya's agents predict will be most popular, they are, in order: Alaska, Europe, the Caribbean and Hawaii.

For Alaska, the growth would be a continuation of its 2017 limelight. According to CLIA's survey, this year it showed the most growth in bookings, at 51% among the agents who responded. The Caribbean/Bermuda/Mexico grew 42% while Canada/New England saw 31% growth.

With such a strong Wave season forecast, Avoya offered some tips from their agents on how to capitalize.

First, set goals. Then get organized and use the right systems, like calendar follow-ups  to help maximize time and bookings. To that end, they recommend an automated calendar.

Avoya agents also recommended reaching out to past clients and lost leads, and that agents take time to brush up on educational offerings from suppliers. Agents should also be prepared for long work hours ahead, and taking care of more menial tasks before Wave season hits.

Finally, Tammie Richie, senior director of Avoya's Mastermind Program, a business development course, offered one more tip: Get started now.

"Get ready now to capitalize on the increase in customer leads," she said. "Pre-Wave is starting and the clients that will book the first couple weeks of January are already looking. Travel professionals who wait until the first of January may already have missed out on two weeks of Wave."
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