Ponant to ‘ramp up’ agent support as it eyes UK growth

Luxury exploration line Ponant is looking to hire a country manager as part of its plans to ‘ramp’ up support for the UK market.

The French company is looking to build relationships with more UK agents to help it attract more British passengers to its fleet, which will expand to 14 ships this summer.

Belinda Hindmarsh, group deputy chief executive, told a Travel Weekly webcast: “We want to build trust and help the agent population to understand who we are and where we are going – to be able to help with that storytelling and looking after the guests to make sure that they have an amazing time.

“It is a real push for education in the first instance and getting feedback from the market to help refine the product to make it even more compatible to what the UK market is looking for.”

The cruise line has already announced it will host more than 450 UK and Ireland agents on ship visits this year, and it will also develop fam trips and webinars to help build awareness of its offering.

“We’re looking to tell our story more internationally – particularly in the UK market; it is real focus for us,” said Hindmarsh.

“[Ponant] is the best-kept secret because we haven’t been very loud about what we’re doing.”

Founded in 1988, the French company now has more than half of its passengers from international markets.

“The perception overseas has been that it is a French offering for French guests and that is actually very far from the truth,” she said.

“Our core markets are still French-speaking in Europe. But about 20% of our business comes from Australasia and 20% from the US.

“There’s a huge opportunity to tell our story. What we are really ramping up is making sure we have more support for the agent network here in the UK.

“We are looking at how we support the agent community to make sure that we get them on board, understand the product, help with webinars and the right go-to-market materials so they can successfully help tell our story.”

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