This story originally ran in the July 19, 2018 issue of Travelweek magazine. To get Travelweek delivered to your agency for free, subscribe here.
TORONTO — Competition can be fierce in this industry but there’s a spirit of collaboration here that is alive and well – from coast to coast, in this case.
A Nova Scotia travel agent’s March 2019 ‘Alan Doyle on the Danube’ cruise, headlined by the Great Big Sea singer-songwriter, is open to bookings from agents regardless of their travel agency affiliation.
“It was organic, the agents had clients interested and they called to see if we would work with them. I said heck, yes! The more the merrier,” says Faith Sproule, owner of Dartmouth, NS-based Niche Travel Group, who is putting the booking together.
Alan Doyle, best known as the lead singer for Great Big Sea, is also an author, actor and, just this past May, recipient of the Order of Canada.
Doyle, now heading up the Alan Doyle Trio, will do four performances on the seven-night March 24, 2019 AmaWaterways’ AmaCerto sailing, bringing his Newfoundland sound to the Danube.
Star power aside, what’s interesting from a retail travel point of view is that Sproule, who organized and blocked the space for the ‘Alan Doyle on the Danube’ sailing, is open to other travel agents from other agencies booking into the cruise as well.
Two passengers were so thankful to their Duncan, B.C. travel agent for getting them onto the March 24, 2019 sailing, they sent the agent a big bouquet of blooms the very same day they booked. How often do clients send their travel agents bouquets of flowers? ‘Not often enough’ is the most likely answer.
“It’s nice to see agents and agencies work together as a team, regardless of what company books the group,” says Sproule.
“You need nerves of steel to pay upfront to block space with a river cruise line and pay for a talented musician the level of Alan Doyle,” she adds. And “marketing this trip correctly was do or die.”
Any agent booking into cruise is getting the same amount that Niche Travel Group agents are getting, says Sproule: $500 per cabin. “This is paid out one week prior to sailing and the commission is sent to the head office of the host or storefront.”
The Duncan, B.C. travel agent is one of several retailers who have booked clients on to the cruise, and three of the categories are already sold out. Several options remaining include French Balcony and Outside Balcony staterooms on the Violin Deck and Cello Deck.
Everyone wins when a repeat client is happy, Sproule adds. “These agents are helping me fill cabins and it eases the pressure to fulfill my contract with AmaWaterways. They have a very happy client and still make $500 per booking plus flights, insurance and pre and post hotels. We all win if we work together. Collaboration is key. I have called agencies in the past to ask if my client can book onto their group and I hate being told no and losing the sale. I own the Niche Travel Group, but my heart and mind are agent first and owner second.”
This isn’t Sproule’s first time organizing a music-themed group trip. Cory Tetford, one of the members of the Alan Doyle Trio, has helped lead Sproule’s music-themed groups in the D.R. for the past two years. “We felt that we could add a key element of fun to a five-star all-inclusive holiday if we brought our own talented musicians, and the fans seem to agree,” Sproule says of the Caribbean group trips. “We plan extra group activities like a catamaran sailing or Havana day trip as well as a group dinner.”
For this March 24, 2019 AmaCerto departure, Sproule mentioned to Tetford that she was interested in booking a music group on a river cruise. “He passed along Alan’s manager’s contact. A short 18 months later … here we are.”
The March 24, 2019 ‘Alan Doyle on the Danube’ sailing has all the hallmarks of a classic river cruise. The seven-night sailing, from Budapest to Vilshofen (and visiting Bratislava, Vienna, Weissenkirchen, Linz and Passau), offers immersive tours in every destination. The non-refundable deposit is $500 per person, with final payment due by Nov. 15.
Sproule says the feedback she’s hearing from clients booking onto the cruise, either through her own agency or other agencies, is that these travellers are marking milestones with the East Coast music of Alan Doyle, while checking a river cruise off of their bucket list at the same time.
And what is she hearing from agents? “They have said ‘wonderful’ and ‘thank goodness’. They are very happy.”
Agents interested in booking their clients onto the cruise can call Sproule at 1-844-440-4567 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The link with complete details is http://nichetravelgroup.ca/Niche-Travel-Group-Alan-Doyle-on-the-Danube.html.