Travel Professional NEWS® speaks with Joni Rein, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Scenic US
With 2017 upon us, what new things can we expect to see this year?
Scenic Luxury Cruises is well known as an innovator in the Luxury River Cruise market. Scenic is the only river cruise company to offer 6-star service, unparalleled luxury and all at a truly all-inclusive rate. The company is focused on delivering quality and excellence to both our travel partners and the guests they entrust to us.
Each innovation takes the best interests of both in mind. Here is what our travel partners can expect for 2017:
A River Cruise Guarantee. You will find this guarantee only with Scenic and, a first in the industry. We have partnered with a well-known global insurance provider to offer cruising travel insurance. On every Scenic river cruise guests are automatically covered once the cruise begins. Our river cruise guarantee is designed to insure for unforeseen events rather than minor delays or deviations. Our guests are covered for any delays or cancellations that occur due to weather, natural disasters, mechanical breakdowns or strikes. In the event a claim is required, instead of the industry standard of future cruise credits, guests will be refunded in the manner in which they paid for their cruise. It’s another way of showing our appreciation for your booked guests by providing this extra peace of mind. And best of all, it’s at no additional charge as it another benefit of their all-inclusive rate.
Smooth sailing down the Douro River. Scenic has staff and has operations established in Porto. Our travel partners know that this means that we own, operate and have full control of our ships that cruise the Douro. Our guests get the same unparalleled luxury and 6-star service no matter where we are cruising. Having an operational presence in Portugal also gives us the advantage to offer longer cruises and to include additional stops that guests wouldn’t find on any other river cruise line.
At Scenic we are very appreciative of our travel partner relationships. This year brings about a significant increase in our capacity. This growth is a testament to the support that we receive each and every day from you, our travel partners. We are consistently working to make it easier for you to do business with us. With that said, in Q3 we will be launching a new Agent Portal. This portal will house all of the tools that will help you successfully market and sell more Scenic Luxury Cruise products. And, at an average commission of $1,500 per booking, this is a place that you will want to become familiar with.
What do you expect to be your most popular ships in 2017?
It is very hard to select a most popular ship. All our Scenic Space-Ships are intimate and luxurious. If it wasn’t for the ever-changing scenery, you would believe that you were staying in a stylish 6-star hotel.
What do you expect to be your most popular itineraries in 2017? (I left the cruises that Bill selected, just wrote around them and then added the paragraph about the Eclipse)
Scenic’s itineraries are all very popular, however, we are seeing a little more interest this year in these 5 sailings:
- Gems of the Danube (8 day cruise from Nuremberg to Budapest)
- Rhine Highlights (8 day cruise from Amsterdam to Basel)
- Jewels of Europe (14 day cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest)
- Gems of the Seine (11 day cruise from Paris to Paris)
- Breathtaking Bordeaux (12 day cruise in Bordeaux)
As with all our programs, these incredible journeys include luxurious accommodations, 6-star service and are inclusive of all meals and beverages aboard one of our Scenic Space-Ships. Additionally, guests are entitled to private butler service, shore excursions, exclusive Scenic Enrich events, our Tailormade GPS program and even our Scenic Sundowners – our exclusive cocktail receptions hosted at some of Europe’s most majestic locations. One price, one incredible journey.
Bookings are also very strong for the Scenic Eclipse, the world’s only Discovery Yacht and the first ocean cruise ship from Scenic, set to debut next year. World-class innovation meets luxury with this 6-star, ultra-luxury mega yacht. She will carry 228 guests in 114 all-veranda suites and offer the same signature brand of all-inclusive luxury Scenic is known for. Guests will enjoy the highest level of inclusions – all meals (no surcharge at any onboard dining venue), complimentary top-shelf beverages all day every day, butler service with an almost 1:1 guest-to-staff ratio and onboard entertainment and lectures in the 240-seat theater. As with all Scenic cruises, all tips and gratuities are included as is complimentary Wi-Fi, expert local guides for included shore excursions, a choice of included Scenic Freechoice activities to personalize the guest experience plus numerous Scenic Enrich special events. Adding even more to the uniqueness of the product, the Scenic Eclipse will take guests to places previously thought inaccessible by using its two on-board helicopters as well as a seven-seat submarine, offering a whole new dimension of wonder. While these twin-engine helicopters take guests beyond the horizon, the custom-built submarine will be providing optimal sightseeing to the rarely-visited world below the water surface. The Scenic Eclipse will launch in the Mediterranean in August 2018; her maiden voyage season will include The Americas; Antarctica; Europe and the Mediterranean; and the Arctic and Fjords. For more information, visit scenicusa.com.
With Travel Professionals on the rise, will you be offering any new training or incentives for Travel Professionals to focus on your line?
Since my arrival at Scenic I have been visiting and speaking with many travel partners. Our travel partners are very important to our success and growth, and we are committed to providing the training and tools to help them market and sell more of our products.
Become a Scenic Specialist. Travel partners can best how to describe the features and benefits of luxuriating onboard a Scenic River Cruise. A series of online courses are available to help them:
- Position our 6-star, truly all-inclusive river cruises with unparalleled luxury features
- Locate potential clients who fit the profile of our guests
- Navigate our website and other resources to better market the Scenic family of products
The modules are quick, they are easy, and upon completion of the training, travel partners are eligible for up to a $100 per passenger incentive when booking their next Scenic river cruise. This Specialist training is located at http://sceniccruisescourse.com/.
- Free Luxury Cruise Giveaway
Not only can our travel partners earn an average of $1,500 per booking, we are also offering them the opportunity to enter to win a FREE cruise including roundtrip business class airfare on our brand new, discovery yacht, the Scenic Eclipse. Every booking made for 2017 departures now through the end of April qualifies them for entry. More details can be found at www.scenicusa.com/agent-portal/eclipse-competition.
- Truly All-Inclusive River Cruise
A Scenic river cruise is the only truly all-inclusive river cruise. Everything is included: From unforgettable excursions, fine dining and complimentary beverages throughout your cruise to traditional musical performances and fascinating natural history presentations. Demand for river cruises is at an all-time high. With our River Cruise Guarantee and commissions averaging $1,500 per booking, there is no better time than now to start selling.
What three things do you feel set your product apart from the competition?
Scenic has always been known as an innovator in river ship design and guest experience among travel partners, guests and the cruise industry in general. Here are my top three:
One of my favorite features onboard our “Space-Ships” is the Sun Lounge. The Sun Lounge functions both as a solarium and an open-air balcony. The design is ingenious. With just a gentle press of a button, the folding glass door smoothly glides open and your balcony seamlessly converts into our exclusive Scenic Sun Lounge allowing you to enjoy the luxury of extra space as well as the unfolding landscape. It’s your own private oasis where you can enjoy breakfast, read a quiet chapter, or sip a glass of complimentary wine as you admire wondrous scenery.
Next, I would have to say our new Scenic Eclipse. It is the World’s First and Only Discovery Luxury Yacht and our first ocean cruise ship. Due to come on line in August 2018, guests on each sailing will enjoy a choice of six onboard dining options – from contemporary fine dining with French cuisine, to Pan Asian, Italian and steak to casual al-fresco dining on the Pool Deck or in the Ocean Cafe Lounge. The ship also features a nearly 5,000 sq. ft. spa offering an extensive menu of luxury treatments, indoor and outdoor Jacuzzis and plunge pools. We continue to set the standard for unparalleled luxury and guest comfort.
And finally, the fact that we are truly all-inclusive. Everything is really included from airport transfers, shore excursions, all drinks, even our exclusive Scenic Enrich and Sundowner events. Additionally, our offer of our exclusive River Cruise Guarantee. Another first for Scenic and, again, included in the overall price of the cruise. A key selling point especially if you have first time river cruise clients.
There has been a big increase in active River Cruising, what activities are currently being offered on your line? What may be next?
Scenic offers a wide range of activities from an easy paced to a more active cruise experience. As a matter of fact, Scenic has a full range of exclusive cycling itineraries that cater to our guests who want to spend more time being active while onshore. We have standard and e-bikes available, dedicated cycling guides, a bike mechanic and even a dedicated support vehicle that follows the group in the event that participants choose to walk some of the itinerary. We handle all the transporting allowing guests to relax and “enjoy the ride”. More information about these cycling itineraries can be found by visiting this link.
The one exclusive port feature that everyone comes home talking about is our Exclusive Scenic Tailormade Program. From the moment a guest steps onboard their luxury Scenic Space-Ship, they have access to their very own personal Tailormade GPS device. Acting as a private guide throughout your journey, this state-of-the-art device lets them navigate Europe’s famous cities and towns with complete ease — helping them negotiate winding city streets at the touch of a button. Our exclusive Tailormade touring devices also feature an interactive map and commentary function, so guests can learn more about the destinations they’re passing as they float gently downstream. This commentary functionality can also be useful when participating in tour-guide led outings, allowing the guest to tune in to the guide’s microphone and hear them clearly, no matter where they’re standing.
What generational market do you see your line focusing on as the capacity continues to grow? Do you have plans to focus on any specific market segment of River Cruise passengers?
We have 16 ships and the new Scenic Eclipse joining us next year. Our luxury cruise product resonates with consumers who expect an active and adventurous journey. As such we deliver sophisticated and exclusive shore excursions, onboard lectures by local experts and award-winning Sundowner events. The design of our Space-Ships allows for a full immersion into the countryside.
We are a young and growing company in the US market. This has afforded us the opportunity to educate our travel partners and consumers that we are the only TRULY all-inclusive river cruise choice. Our target demographic is active, well travelled, has high disposable income and very discriminating. They are between the age of 50 and 70 and travel international several times per year in luxury accommodations.
To attract guests who want a delightful gastronomical experience, we offer our exclusive Scenic Culinaire experience. Scenic has transformed our Crystal Dining venue into a private cooking emporium. This dedicated area features cooking stations, a cheese and wine cellar, fresh ingredients sourced from local markets. Here our cooking instructors will introduce our guests to regional recipes. These exclusive cooking classes are a major highlight during French River Cruises with Scenic.
Many of the Rivers in Europe are being said to be a bit crowded, what are your plans to overcome that? Are there new itineraries and or destinations that you are looking into?
While we do offer many river cruises in Europe, we also offer cruises in Asia along the Irrawaddy and Mekong Rivers. But what makes us even more unique is that our ships are built for the rivers they sail and designed to reach specific ports along each. Our cruises tend to be longer and we offer unique and exclusive events ashore such as our Sundowners and our Scenic Enrich programs.
What three things would you like to share with our Travel Professionals to assist in selling your line?
- Remember that Scenic Luxury Cruise products are truly all-inclusive and come with our River Cruise Guarantee.
- Average commission on a single booking is $1,500; we value your partnership and are here to assist you with product training, sales tips and more, just give us a call. Also, look for our new agent portal to launch in Q3 of this year.
- If your clients are looking for unparalleled luxury and 6-star service levels, book them on a Scenic River Cruise.
Many Travel Professionals have found their niche in River Cruising, what advice can you offer to a Travel Professional looking to break into this niche?
Here’s my advice:
- Read the fine print. Scenic is the only truly all-inclusive river cruise.
- Contact your Scenic BDM to set up a training session and learn how to best utilize our sales and marketing materials. Your knowledgeable BDM will assist you with understanding our brand and our product offering; which clients would be ideal river cruise travelers; and how to leverage Scenic’s wonderful marketing assets like video’s, emails, and our cooperative marketing mailers. Your BDM can also assist you in setting up a river cruise night so you can invite your clients to learn more about river cruising and Scenic.
- Take your own trip down a river. The best way to sell a product is to experience it firsthand. Contact your BDM to assess availability for a FAM trip. At an average commission rate of $1,500 per booking, it is worth your time and effort.
Predicting the future is difficult, but what do you think is next for the River Cruising market?
The river cruise segment is still very young. Scenic is only 3 years old in the US market. It has been my initial observation that the river cruise market has and will continue to grow rapidly over the next 3-5 years. During that critical time it is in the best interest for Scenic and my fellow suppliers to educate our partners to help them differentiate our products and offerings. Today, it is difficult for our travel partners to articulate the differences with confidence making it more complex than necessary when marketing river cruises. It can become confusing… From combining a classic European bike tour with an elegant river cruise to theme cruises featuring culinary expertise to intergenerational departures that bring together families of all different ages for an unforgettable journey, river cruise lines are sending a message for all different types of travelers. The more we can do to assist our travel partners the better for all of us.