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The travel industry is thriving, and one company bringing new innovations to travelers all around the world is Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours.
TravelPulse recently went one-on-one with Rob Huffman, Vice President Sales for Scenic USA.
Huffman has enjoyed a long career in the travel industry, working in various locations for more than 30 years and exclusively in the cruise industry for more than 25 years. He joined the Scenic Group in late 2017.
TravelPulse: What's new and exciting with Scenic?
Rob Huffman: There simply has never been a more exciting time for Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours. While our European departures remain extremely popular, we are seeing increased demand for both Egypt and Southeast Asia sailings, too. Our partnership with National Geographic on select departures in 2018 and 2019 combines our TRULY all-inclusive luxury with National Geographic's 130-year legacy of science, conservation and exploration creating a truly unforgettable experience for our guests.
Of course, we are very excited for the launch of the world's first luxury discovery yacht, Scenic Eclipse, in January 2019. Scenic Eclipse will set the standard in expedition cruising in terms of technology, size and luxury. She will offer many state-of-the-art features including 114 all-veranda suites - ranging in size from 345 square feet to over 2600 square feet, 10 different dining options - ranging from Asian fusion to French fine dining and everything in between, a 6000 ft. spa, two 7-seat helicopters, a 7-seat submarine (rated to depths of 300m), kayaks and zodiacs, all focused on providing our guests with experiences unlike anything else in the industry.
We are also excited to have announced the building of a sister ship, that will be joining the Scenic Eclipse fleet in 2020.
TP: How does Scenic work with travel agents?
RH: Our relationship with our travel partners remains our single highest priority. Travel agents are unequivocally the single most important factor in our plan for the long-term success of The Scenic Group in the US market. With a team of veteran Business Development Managers across the country, our number one goal is to proactively and effectively engage with the trade to ensure we provide the proper education and training across all of our brands, focusing on what truly sets us apart from our competitors.
Additionally, we are committed to providing the necessary tools, including commission overrides and marketing support, needed to successfully market, promote and sell The Scenic Group brands on a daily, and more importantly, profitable basis. We want all travel partners to know that we are eager and willing to assist them in growing their business.
TP: What separates Scenic Cruises from other cruise lines?
RH: There are a number of things that we believe set us apart from our friendly competitors. Because we have only been active in the US Market for approximately 5 years, many in the trade were unaware that as an Australian-based company, we have a deep and successful history of providing upscale tour and cruise vacations to our guests for over 30 years.
Having started as a tour company prior to entering the river cruise segment, we have the experience and knowledge to provide a truly unique, immersive and distinctive experience for our guests. As one example, our Scenic Enrich programs provide our guests with exclusive experiences such as a classical concert and ballet performance in Vienna at the magical Palais Lichtenstein or enjoying a gala dinner and performance at the Pope's Palace in Avignon.
Nevertheless, the single most important difference is the fact that we are TRULY all-inclusive. The term "All-inclusive" tends to be used frequently and rather loosely in our industry today. To put it into perspective, more than 95% of our guests on our Scenic vessels disembark having no additional Scenic-based charges on their credit cards. Transfers, gratuities, excursions, beverages, butler service for all guests and so much more - TRULY all-inclusive. The exception for the 5% of guests who do have an additional cost is simply for those who take advantage of our spa or salon services. When we say "All-Inclusive", we mean TRULY all-inclusive.
TP: What are the most popular destinations for Scenic?
RH: Not surprisingly, our most popular itineraries sail right through the heart of Europe along the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers. Easily, our single most popular itinerary is the Jewels of Europe, offering a 14-night sailing from Amsterdam to Budapest or vice versa.
The itinerary sails right through the heart of Europe offering our guests the opportunity to visit historic and picturesque destinations such as Cologne, Nuremberg, Passau, Vienna and many more. Of course, our Rhine Highlights and Gems of the Danube itineraries offering 7-night sailings are also very popular. We are also seeing a dramatic increase in interest for our other itineraries, including Portugal, France, Southeast Asia and Egypt.
TP: Where does Scenic hope to be 5 to 10 years from now?
RH: We certainly look to continue offering our loyal and satisfied guests new and ever more immersive cruise and tour options, while growing our global brands through active and effective communication of the experience and value our guests receive. Our company started with the objective and commitment to exceed our guests' expectations.
This started during the early days in Australia when our coach tours were visiting unique destinations not offered by other companies. From there we expanded to the Scenic Rivers focusing on the multiple innovations including walkout balconies that convert to enclosed sun lounges, six dining options, butler service and the fact we are TRULY all-inclusive. Following shortly thereafter, we launched Emerald Waterways- five-star river ships and service at four-star prices.
In January, we have the excitement surrounding the launch of the world's first Discovery Yacht, with inclusions never before seen on expedition vessels. We are confident that we will continue to lead by focusing on the needs of the guest, valuing their feedback and wishes, while always moving forward with the commitment to future innovations in the ever-changing travel industry.
Eric Bowman is the Executive Editor of TravelPulse. A graduate of The University of Georgia, Eric has been working in online...
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