Trudy Redfern, regional VP, Silversea Cruises, explains how the deluxe operator aims to boost Middle East sales, while increasing its ship calls in the region
ATN: How long has Silversea called into the Middle East?
Silver Cloud made the inaugural call in Dubai in November 2000, and the line now has 17 itineraries that touch here [in] 2007/8.
ATN: Is the region a source market for the line as well as a destination?
Since the inception of the Silversea programme in the Middle East, it must be said that the vast majority of sales have originated from offline areas – the destination itself has been the “key focus”. By far the biggest source market has been the UK, followed by Europe, and most recently we noticed that US guests are returning, particularly on voyages that touch Dubai – we have also noticed an increase in sales from the Asia Pacific rim. Our profile in general terms in the region has been somewhat limited and, as a result, we have not, to date, experienced volume sales from the market as a whole, although bookings have been received from Dubai, Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
ATN: How does your relationship with Dnata work?
Dnata has been the preferred partner of Silversea for a number of years and we have just renewed the commercial agreement for a further 12 months. We are confident the new management infrastructure at Dnata, and the plans they have announced to give focus to the luxury sector, will result in a considerable increase in sales in the not too distant future. As part of the agreement, Dnata has the responsibility to promote the Silversea product in the Gulf region via its call centre, leisure lounges and retail outlets. The group also acts as a wholesaler for other retail agents outside the Dnata infrastructure.
ATN: Do you have any plans to expand your physical presence in the region?
We do not have any immediate plans to open a dedicated Silversea office here, but never say never. However, I have extensive knowledge of the region having worked as general manager for Dnata Holidays in the UK, and worked with the Emirates groups since the mid-1980s. I will make regular visits to support the planned activities and attempt to raise the profile via PR promotion.
ATN: How are you currently promoting Silversea to agents and consumers in the Gulf?
Currently, we are reliant on established partners to promote Silversea here, and, over the years, have showcased the product to agents when vessels are in the region. We have also attended ATM and featured in a select number of Middle East publications. In future, we will be stepping up all of these activities.
ATN: Will Silversea increase its ship calls in the region?
We have 17 voyages that include Dubai over the next two years, and will be offering three Dubai-Dubai Arabian Gulf itineraries in 2008. The frequency of our calls to the region will depend very much on the ship deployment, our ability to generate good revenues from these voyages and the political stability here, which does affect client booking habits.
ATN: How does Silversea view the Middle East cruise market?
The region has the potential to be a leading cruise destination with excellent weather and top quality hotel accommodation – although port authorities could do more to improve facilities and must continue to do this (Dubai, however, has excellent cruise terminal facilities). The tourist boards must work with government bodies to ensure security at ports is constantly monitored. More interesting land tours should be developed to ensure travellers can sample the culture of the region.
ATN: What are the unique selling points of Silversea for agents here?
For agents, we offer a fully inclusive concept and simple booking process so they do not have to worry about selling on additional charges. Bigger commissions are possible as a result of the higher base value of the cruise fare – many lines that offer a lower fare charge clients onboard extras which are non commissionable! In addition, an onboard booking referral by a client will be commissionable to the agent, and this is a unique service in the cruise sector. Other plus points are the high repeat factor due to client satisfaction; a website giving agents live information on Silversea itineraries, pricing and product enhancements, and an online agent booking tool for high volume producing agents.
ATN: What tips can you give for selling Silversea cruises?
Understand the inclusive value concept benefits; understand the client and their needs as a potential cruiser; research the product offerings and the Silversea differentiation from other cruise lines and land based resort product offerings. Remember, once a client is secured, they will come back for more, as satisfaction levels are so high.