Virgin Voyages reports record UK sales month

Virgin Voyages’ sales chief has hailed the efforts of UK agents as the line reported its best-ever sales month in this country.

Sales vice-president Shane Lewis-Riley told a Travel Weekly webcast booking levels had “increased dramatically” in January, adding: “We’ve had the best month that we’ve ever had in the UK, predominantly driven by our trade partners.

“It’s like a light switch has been switched on for the wave season.”

Lewis-Riley predicted the sales would continue to “go from strength to strength”.

He also insisted the line had not dropped fares to incentivise bookings and was actually holding pricing up.

“When we work with the trade, our messages from my team are ‘work smarter, not harder’ and ‘work for higher margins’,” he explained.

“We work hard enough as it is. We’re not going to give any of those margins away.”

He pointed to the recently restructured marketing team which was now producing “unique UK messaging” for the first time.

Head of international marketing Gemma Major was praised by Lewis-Riley for the way her team had promoted the line’s “most inclusive” wave offer for the UK.

Last month, Lewis-Riley announced the line was offering “buy one, get 60% off” the second passenger deal and up to $600 worth of free drinks included in the fare during wave.

He noted the line’s “half world cruises” – or repositioning sailings – on Resilient Lady from Greece to Australia had sold “incredibly well”.

“We’ve got such a wide range of product that appeals to so many different First Mates [agents],” he added.

“There’s been a big push from the UK for those repositioning cruises to Australia and the Med.”

He also said the line would offer agents education opportunities about its Caribbean product.

“People think our Caribbean product is four and five nights in the Caribbean,” he said. “[But] we now have four, five, six and eight nights so there’s definitely more product for the UK market to book.”

The line is now working with “smaller, more independent” agencies, he added. “They’re seeing that Virgin Voyages sits in a really unique place where it’s a cruise product but it’s not the traditional cruise experience.”

People who tend to book boutique hotels or the W Hotel chain “love what Virgin Voyages has to offer”, Lewis-Riley explained.

“We have all the dining included and with our destinations you can spend more time ashore than you would do on a typical cruise itinerary,” he noted. “So those customers are looking at Virgin Voyages because we offer a really good introduction to cruise.”

Around 50% of passengers who sail with Virgin Voyages book another cruise while on board, according to Lewis-Riley. “They’re looking for their next holiday before they even leave,” he said.

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