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“Travel advisors are our primary distribution channel”: Silversea’s Mark Conroy

Friday, February 28, 2020
T5_Silversea_Feb28

Mark Conroy, Silversea’s Managing Director, The Americas

If you have a client who cruises in a suite on a mainstream cruise line, takes an upscale land tour, or travels business class for work, that client is essentially a Silversea guest – they just doesn’t know it yet, says Mark Conroy, Silversea’s Managing Director, The Americas, in this edition of Take 5.

1. What’s new with Silversea?

“I could spend all day on this one question alone since we have so much happening at Silversea! Let me share just a few highlights.

“Silver Origin, our first purpose-built luxury expedition ship for the Galapagos Islands, is slated for delivery in July 2020.

“Silver Moon, our second new Muse Class ship, is due in August 2020. This will boast additional features including our new Sea and Land Taste (S.A.L.T.) concept that features the regional cuisine of the places we visit. Also onboard is an expanded re-imaginging of our signature specialty restaurant, La Dame by Lalique.

“The Antarctic Bridge, brand-new 7-night fly-cruises over the Drake Passage in Business Class to Antarctica, eliminating the need to cross this often turbulent passage of water by sea.

“The conversion of our 1995-built Silver Wind into a fully-fledged polar expedition vessel, complete with ice-strengthened hull. This expands our ability to provide a true expedition experience combined with a true luxury experience. The ship will be refitted in time for the start of the 2020 Antarctic season in November.

“Next year, we debut not one but TWO World Cruises in 2021, featuring the industry’s first-ever all-expedition World Cruise.

“Something closer to home: two Expedition cruises in July and August 2020 that sail in and out of Churchill, MB on Hudson Bay. Churchill is often known as the polar bear capital of the world thanks to its abundance of these creatures.”

2. Some travel agents might think they don’t have Silversea clients, that the price point might be out of reach for their clientele. What would you say to that?

“This is probably be the biggest misunderstanding agents and consumers have about Silversea.

“When you look at our pricing compared to a similar suite on premium and contemporary ships (i.e. suites ranging over 30 square metres), we might look like we cost twice as much. When you consider all we include – from gratuities to beverages to the services of a butler regardless of the category of suite booked – the difference is much less. The extra charges on Silversea are only the Spa, Casino, Gift Shop and Shore Excursion departments (though excursions are included on all of our expedition cruises).

“Other lines charge for just about every other thing except breathing – it sometimes costs more to get off the ship than it does to get on, once your onboard purchases are added up.

“In the grand scheme of things, a Silversea cruise is probably at a premium of between $50 to $150 per day over other alternatives.

“There is also the question of destination: would you prefer to see a destination like Alaska as one of 596 guests or one of 2,000 plus passengers?

“The majority of our guests are not the one percenters; they are the 10 percenters. These are primarily Baby Boomers who have worked hard all their life and are enjoying the fruits of their labours. They have a nice house, they have amassed a collection of goods in their lives, and now they are focused on acquiring premium experiences. They are the same people who can afford to buy a Rolls-Royce or a Bentley but prefer to own a BMW or Lexus.

“We also get just regular folk who save up all their lives for a trip or bucket list place to celebrate special events like wedding anniversaries, honeymoons, a big birthday or their retirement.

“So if you have a client who cruises in a suite on a mainstream line, takes an upscale land tour or travels business class for work, that client is essentially a Silversea guest who just doesn’t know it.”

3. Silversea has made a big push into expedition cruising. What is Silversea doing in this niche that sets it apart and can you talk about plans to grow this side of the business even more?

“We have a past guest base of about 100,000 households, all which have a bucket list destination like the Galapagos, Antarctica, the Arctic, Russian Far East, the Chilean Fjords, West Africa, or Australia’s Kimberly Coast. These are places they want to visit during their lifetime; if we want to keep these guests we need to expand our offerings.

“We also need to find new-to-cruise guests who will book an expedition cruise simply because it is the only way to get there – places like the Galapagos Islands or Antarctica.

“We have found that once these guests take an expedition cruise with us, they are highly likely to return for another expedition or even set sail on one of our classic cruises.

“Last but not least, we have the systems and process in place to offer an amazing guest experience onboard, so we are using those same systems and process to deliver an amazing expedition experience.”

4. Back in 2018 Royal Caribbean bought a majority stake in Silversea. Has this brought about any changes that impact agents or their clients? What has been the biggest advantage of having Royal Caribbean as a majority stakeholder?

“There are too many to list here but the key ones are:

. Increased Access to Capital – Since we have been acquired we have spent roughly US$500 million to refurbish and update our existing fleet. We also have five more ships under design or construction which will allow us to expand our capacity by almost 100% by 2023.

. Talent & Experience – By being part of the ‘Royal family’ we have access to their ne-build and technology teams and their Innovation Center where several hundred experts are helping us design and build increasingly unique vessels to fulfill our guests’ wishes and needs well into the future.

. Technology – Agents can see us on Cruising Power, which will in turn lead you to our website. Since our reservation systems are not currently compatible advisors cannot book through [Royal Caribbean’s travel agent res system] Espresso; however we hope to have a new system up and running in the not too distant future.

. Industry Awareness – We have a small sales team of about 17 people in the U.S. and Canada so we typically only call on our producing agents database which has around 4,000 locations. Royal is sold by just about every agency and advisor who sells leisure travel and they have a very large sales team who are now representing Silversea during their sales calls. This has been greatly expanding our agency an advisor footprint. We are in the early stages of the program which has created amazing results for Silversea and advisors. We are also working together at industry events as part of the Royal Caribbean family of brands, which has raised Silversea’s overall profile in the market.

. Data – Royal Caribbean has compiled an amazing amount of data on the cruise and travel industry which as a standalone company we would never have access to.”

5. Why are travel agents so crucial for Silversea’s success and how can agents learn more about Silversea, to effectively sell it?

“Travel agencies and travel advisors are our primary distribution channel. They know who the experienced cruisers are, where they live and have a trusted working relationship with them.

“When we ask guests why they booked Silversea the first time the number one answer is, “The recommendation of a travel advisor.” Close behind is the recommendation of a family member or friend who has personally experienced the Silversea product. Since travel advisors know these guests and, hopefully their friends and family, they can cut through the clutter in the market and comfortably recommend Silversea.

“When they do it creates what we like to call the ‘Virtuous Circle’. The guest enjoys a luxury cruise that they didn’t think they could afford or were not willing to pay for at price similar to what they spent on their former cruise on a large premium or contemporary ship. The travel agency or advisor makes close to twice as much on the booking. Silversea secures valuable new guests. And since at any given time roughly 60% of guests aboard Silversea ships are Venetian Society (past passenger) members, both Silversea and the travel advisor get repeat guests, many who actually book their next sailing with us aboard during their cruise.”

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