Travel Webcast
Canadian Travel Press
Issue Date: Aug 21, 2017
View the full digital edition

Plenty of reasons to sell groups

Pictured above: Myanmar is one of the countries Collette groups can explore.

Ian Stalker

Michelle Palma says there’s no shortage of reasons why travel agents should book groups with the company she promotes.
And Palma, vice-president, sales – Canada for Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, says the actual Uniworld vessels are among those reasons.
“Our ships are the perfect size for groups because they allow groups to enjoy an intimate environment both on-board and on shore,” she says. “With smaller group excursion sizes, the highest staff to guest ratios, impeccable service that comes from the heart and an on-board philosophy of ‘No request too small, no detail too large,’ we can deliver the wow factor that groups are looking for.”
These are good times for Uniworld’s group business, which Palma says is up “significantly” in this country this year. Advance bookings for the 2018 season are “trending significantly higher versus the same time last year,” she continues, adding Uniworld has seen “tremendous growth in mid- to large-size groups but also in our charter and incentive side of the business, which has become a major focus for us over the past year.”
Uniworld reaches out to agents wanting to develop group business, with a district sales manager spending time with the agent, learning which itineraries would best suit their client by asking about client interests, hobbies, activity levels and so on.

Quick to respond
The company then decides “which of our many group amenities are best suited for the individual group needs,” she adds. “Once the details are finalized, we provide complete sales and marketing support with in-depth product training, exclusive group presentations, customized group flyers, a dedicated Groups Co-ordinator and much more.”
Palma says Uniworld “always want to be quick to respond and easy to do business with” for agents.
“We offer the best tour conductors in the river cruise segment, with one tour conductor for every nine full-paying passengers in Europe, to one in 15 for our Exotics, including Russia, India, Vietnam and Cambodia, China and Egypt; as well as exclusive amenities that range from bonus commissions to shipboard credits; travel agent rates for the consultants to escort their group; exclusive excursions; fully customized excursions; and much more.”
Palma notes specialty groups Uniworld can accommodate include gardening groups who can enjoy Springtime Tulips sailings; wine aficionados who will appreciate Bordeaux and Italy sailings where private wine tours and tastings can be arranged and wines can be brought on board from specific wineries; culinary groups, with Uniworld offering them “fresh farm to table dining” and customized excursions to local markets and farms available, as are culinary demonstrations and on-board special menus; history buffs wanting to retrace European history, with the beaches of Normandy among visited destinations; and art historians who can appreciate Rhine, Main and Danube programs.
Palma says Uniworld sailings are the “perfect market for charters and incentives” as they provide “an intimate environment for full and partial ship charters, as well as corporate incentive groups. We will work with the agent to prepare the proposals and assist in their pricing strategy to ensure they are successful in their efforts.”
Palma also states that there’s “No nickle and dimeing” Uniworld clients once they’re on-board as “the price they pay before departure includes everything, from roundtrip airport transfers and all gratuities to a choice of daily shore excursions, all beverages and meals on-board, complimentary WiFi, on-board wellness programs, bicycles and so much more…
“With incredible tour conductors, the ability to customize and create exclusive excursions and provide intimate on-board experiences, we truly provide an all-inclusive, personalized experience for groups.”

Collette happy to help
Meanwhile, Brett Walker of Collette says that tour operator’s business development managers across the country happily help travel agents develop group business.
“Collette provides many benefits to agents wishing to promote groups, either on spec or to an existing group,” Walker continues. “In fact, after having consulted with a Collette BDM, Collette will produce a four-colour group flyer that will be available in either printed form or digitally. Agents can request as many printed brochures as they need and all costs for the production and printing will be paid by Collette. We will even pay half (up to $250) of the agent’s cost to mail any printed flyers to their customers. There is no obligation or minimum sales required to provide this support to agents.”

Plenty of benefits
Walker says agents can benefit in a “huge” manner by Collette not requiring a minimum number of passengers for agents to receive any of the benefits – promotional and otherwise – of booking groups with Collette. Certainly, incentives like comps are available but the up-front costs Collette incurs for the design and creation of the printed/digital flyers and any additional support is regardless of group size. The important thing is for agents to try it!”
Walker says Collette’s group business is “strong. However, the term ‘group’ may infer that every group of travellers has an affinity with one another and that is increasingly not the case. Many groups are formed simply through the promotion of a group (ubiquity of technology and its usage) and the endemic nature of travel today. Just do it!”