Q&A with Silversea Cruise’s Connie Georgiou
Silversea Cruises' sales director Connie Georgiou knows a thing or two about pitching the perfect trip. Here, she chats to Aspire about how 2019 has kicked off for the brand, what's in store for the months ahead, and the importance of forging strong relationships with the trade.
Q How have sales from the UK started so far?
A We’ve had a really good, positive start. I think the offering that we’re giving this year is very clear and simple and that’s helped. Everyone knows our deals include airfare, there’s a bonus amounts saving and there’s also our early booking discount (EBD). I have to say, we were worried Brexit would stop people but so far, it’s been good. Us Brits are resilient - and we’ll have a holiday!
Q Which destinations are selling well?
A We’re doing really well in the Caribbean, the Med (as always), the Far East, and Australia. I think the latter is because we had the Silver Muse [docking there] and that caused a big stir, especially among our Australian travel agents. They loved it; it’s the first time it had been to Australia.
Q Last year was quite a big year for Silversea with Royal Caribbean acquiring a majority stake in the company. What has this meant for the brand so far?
A Again, it’s been really positive! I think because they’re such a big, established brand, we can learn a lot from what they do very well. It's also meant the ships we have in dry dock being refurbished have been able to stay in for longer thanks to investment from Royal Caribbean. So, so far it’s really good.
Q What else is new for Silversea Cruises this year?
A We’ve got two new ships being launched next year – Silver Moon and Silver Origin, an expedition ship replacing our Silver Galapagos. In addition, we’re launching our first expedition world cruise. It’s 167 days and the itinerary is fabulous. It’s also our 25th anniversary in April so that’s really exciting.
Q When it comes to working with the trade, how important is the UK market?
A We’ve always worked closely with the trade. Our product is so niche that it’s difficult to sell it on a website; you have to be able to bring it alive and that’s what the trade can do. So we really try and keep the trade engaged with things like our own agent awards and training academy. We don’t want people to be scared when they get an enquiry, we want them to know they can call us and we can help them sell.
Q How else are you supporting agents who want to sell your product?
A We’re going to be doing more ship visits this year and we’ll be working closely with Clia on that. We’re also going to do a series of nationwide trade events in key locations to educate travel agents on new products. We love to meet them and they love to give us feedback so we will be having them in all key locations throughout the year. Plus, our advocate scheme returns for a third year, where we recognise people who really support the brand.
Q What top tips would you offer agents selling luxury cruise?
A I would always tell them to break down the price and look at what it includes. The headline price may be quite scary but when you break it down and compare it to what you would pay to stay in a luxury hotel, and then add on the food, drink and service, it’s quite reasonable. It's also about breaking down the actual experience. Staff onboard work hard and you really get looked after. You can go onboard and leave your wallet and purse in the suite; it’s classless onboard so you don’t have to wear a band; and everyone’s treated like they should be - as our guests.
Q For agents not currently working with Silversea, what would you say sets you apart?
A We go to more destinations than any other of our competitor set. It’s all about the destination; we’re destination experts. Because we operate smaller ships, we want to really immerse you in that destination, and we want to do that in luxury. If you love travel, it’s the best way to see the world. Some places you can’t get to if you don’t experience them by ship.
Q You’ve worked in the travel industry for many years, for a long time as a travel agent. How has the luxury cruise market changed over the years?
A I wasn’t aware of the demographics. I was very guilty of thinking it was for a certain age group and it’s only from experiencing it that you realise it’s absolutely not - and it’s getting that message out. Actually, it’s for people who enjoy travelling and want to enjoy that in a certain style.
Q What is the biggest challenge facing cruise sales at the moment?
A Namely, it’s attracting new people to cruising. We have to really get out there and appeal to new people. I think once people have experienced cruising, they’re hooked.