One of the hotter topics in retail travel circles is cruise-oriented agents broadening their offerings by placing more sales efforts on all-inclusive resorts. Cruise Week spoke with an agency that has successfully sold both for years to get a perspective.
“We narrowed our business model down to focus on both,’ says Steve Marinkovich, owner of Admiral of the Fleet Cruise Center. ‘We don’t sell airline tickets, and we no longer sell Vegas. We can wring our hands and not earn money selling Vegas, or we can concentrate on what makes us money.”
That concentration is paying off: This six-person agency produces $3.8 million in sales: $2.2 million annually in cruise and $1.6 million in all-inclusives. Marinkovich says the two products balance each other nicely. “The all-inclusive commissions are good, but last year when swine flu killed our Mexico all-inclusives, it was nice to be able to focus more on cruises.”
Marinkovich says there’s not as much crossover between products as some might expect. “There’s some crossover, but it’s primarily not the same client. A lot of people don’t just want to lie on a beach in Cancun; they want to see different places. And entertainment is usually better on a cruise ship. Only about 25% go back and forth.”
Reflecting that fact, agency staff members specialize in one or the other of the products. Their qualifications are professionally framed on the walls, letting clients know they’ve put in the hours to learn the product. But how does a storefront operation compete with online marketers with aggressive pricing strategies? “Our prices are good, and it’s a different client,” says Marinkovich. “I don’t think the Internet can compete with the knowledge of a local agent that specializes.”
The agency has a presence on the Internet, but it is more informational than transactional. “We’re not marketing with it; it’s bookable, but mainly it’s for clients to check luggage requirements and things like that. What builds our business is word of mouth along with some direct mail.”
Once again defying conventional wisdom, Marinkovich has positive feelings about the future: “There are challenges at all levels and types of retail, but as long as we work with suppliers and they continue to work with us, we really do have a true partnership.”