Lets face it; there are just three ways to grow revenue:

1. Increase spending and/or frequency among current customers

With a combination of increased passenger capacity, pressure on pricing and the general economic malaise, number one will be difficult in 2009.

2. Acquire customers from your competition

Number two may be easier, given uncertain levels of brand loyalty among contemporary lines in particular (a subject for a future post).  But the result may be lower prices and squeezed margins.

3. Expand the cruise market and acquire new customers

The time is ripe for number three.

A) The market potential is certainly bigger. According to the Allied Academics International Conference the cruise industry holds only two percent of the market share in the total vacation industry. Only 45% of the target North American market has EVER cruised – and there is no reason over time this can’t rise to 70%-80%.

B) The economy may prompt non-cruisers to try something different, of a greater perceived value.

How do we win them? By utilizing a “Link Together and Take Away” strategy.

Link Together

Why didn’t we see Bond in Quantum of Solace ordering his shaken not stirred martinis in the casino of the Celebrity Solstice?

“Link together” means partnering the cruise line's brand into the extended, non-vacationing lives of consumers. This shouldn’t be done haphazardly. Research on each lines core customers should be conducted to see what other brands and products it's best customers tend to gather around, use most and associate with. Then, reach out to create logical branding partnerships to “link together” – drawing in new cruisers via the associations.

  • Fashion retailers: runway and fashion show on board
  • Auto makers: place an automobile on deck for one of 3,000 passengers to win. In return, auto manufactures run a sales contest giving away cruises to top performers
  • Real Estate: buy a new home from a builder and get a free cruise
  • Refrigerator: A Northland stainless mini-fridge in each stateroom. In return, each sold in stores has a sicker inside (take a cruise and for seven days you won’t have to use this)

These are just examples. It’s all about creative ways to get the cruise line’s brand in front of non-cruisers who, in their purchasing behavior, mirror the line’s current best customers.

Take Away

Obviously the best cruise prospects are those who are already vacationing to locations such as the Grand Canyon or Europe, planning a spa getaway to Sedona Arizona, a family reunion in a Vermont private rental home or a wedding in Napa Valley.

Fortunately consumers surf different web sites and make use of significant research months before they make their vacation choice. In addition to buying Google keywords “cruise,” our ads should also be appearing when they search “getaway spa.” In addition to posting display advertising where current cruisers hang out (travel sites and cruise boards) place them in spa message boards, spa blogs, spa websites and spa niche publications. Invite influential spa experts to sail and lecture.  Importantly, the messaging should be specifically tailored to address each particular niche (spas, exotic destinations etc.,).

In sum, 2009 will be an exciting and challenging year. There is an opportunity to go after first time cruisers. By linking together with the non-travel brands that resonate with a given line’s target prospects and by bringing in new travelers to experience the spa or destinations we can all make out like Bond... James Bond.