Cruise Holidays Launches Conference with Focus on Social Media
By Mimi Kmet
October 31, 2012 9:11 PM
Cruise Holidays International started its annual conference aboard Royal Caribbean International’s Allure of the Seas with an announcement that its franchise owners increased their Facebook fan numbers to nearly 80,000 fans, thanks to the franchisor’s recent social media campaign. The consumer-facing campaign consisted of a sweepstakes that automatically entered clients and prospects into a sweepstakes to win a Royal Caribbean cruise each time they “liked” a participating franchise owner’s Facebook page, according to Maggie Blehert, a Cruise Holidays spokesperson. Cruise Holidays used a third-party provider to set up the sweepstakes application, Blehert said.
Cruise Holidays invited franchise owners to participate by imbedding the sweepstakes page into their Facebook pages. About 40 to 45 franchise owners participated and attended a webinar showing them how to imbed the sweepstakes page. When clients “liked” a franchise owner’s page, many also filled out a form with their contact information, which provided participating agents with leads. The winner, who is from the New York City area, was contacted and told that the franchise owner that he or she “liked” and Royal Caribbean will work with them to plan their cruise.
Over the course of the two-month contest, the average franchise owner’s Facebook page grew by more than 60 percent in terms of the number of “likes” on his or her Facebook page. Cruise Holidays’ overall reach on Facebook, including its corporate and franchise owner pages, is now nearly 80,000 fans, 30,000 of which provided their email addresses, according to Mark Schiffner, the franchisor’s vice president and COO. One franchise owner, David Rentsch of Cruise Holidays of Shelby, Mich., increased the number of his Facebook page “likes” from about 100 to nearly 2,000 during the two-month period.
“We plan to make social media marketing a centerpiece of our marketing, going forward,” Schiffner told TravelPulse. In fact, based on the success of the first sweepstakes, Cruise Holidays plans to offer more franchise-wide sweepstakes in 2013. The network will also focus on helping franchise owners in their efforts to convert more of their social media followers into clients.
Cruise Holidays also is using the conference to introduce its franchise owners to its new franchise partnerships in the U.K., Australia and Quebec, with representatives from those franchise networks in attendance. “We focused on finding the smartest folks we can find in the cruise retailing world and get them on the same team to not only share the things that we’ve developed but also to develop the collaboration to move forward,” Schiffner said. With the addition of franchise owners from those three networks, the total number of Cruise Holidays franchise owners and affiliated locations has grown to more than 350.
In addition, the franchisor is helping its agents and agencies become more familiar with a recently launched client engagement program that allows them to stay in touch with their clients from the time they book a vacation to their return home. The program consists of a series of communications that delves into data contained in CruiseWeb, the franchisor’s proprietary technology system, to provide customized emails based on the client’s itinerary, date of sailing and other trip information. CruiseWeb pulls the necessary client information to create a series of personalized communications, sent at the appropriate times according to each traveler’s departure and return date. As long as the agent has opted in for a client set to receive communications, this process happens automatically.
Cruise Holidays’ Platinum Program, which it launched this past spring, consists of franchise owners who want to boost their luxury travel business. They have participated in a variety of activities over the past year, including a luxury travel training seminar at Cruise Holidays’ sister company, Cruise Specialists.
TripPro, a new domestic air online booking tool for franchise owners, includes U.S. and Canadian destinations. (Cruise Holidays already provided its franchise owners and agents with access to an International Air Desk.)
CU Online, the learning management system announced at the 2011 convention, now has about 110 online lessons and more than 415 active learners. Among the topics are CruiseWeb, which offers more than 30 courses, some as brief as one-minute tutorials meant to provide quick answers to commonly asked questions; vendor training, with 35 courses, including webinars from vendors; and independent contractor training, offering 10 courses, including learning about the industry and launching a business. Other topics include selling and managing groups, marketing and public relations, social media, and specific Cruise Holidays programs or services. The courses are not tied into any outside learning programs, like those offered by CLIA or other organizations, according to Blehert.
And this fall, Cruise Holidays launched a Facebook page for franchise recruitment. The page provides information about franchising and how to start a business selling cruises.