Explora Journeys makes ‘By Appointment’ service permanent

Travel advisors "key" to new ultra-luxury cruise line's success

Explora Journeys has made its ‘By Appointment’ service for travel advisors a permanent fixture, in response to the overwhelming demand for the program, LATTE can reveal.

The call-back service was initially launched to cater to frontline sellers who were already busy during the pandemic processing refunds and future cruise credits of their clients booked with other cruise lines.

Speaking exclusively with LATTE at Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas, Michael Ungerer, CEO of Explora Journeys, said the ‘By Appointment’ platform – which is fundamentally a call-back service at the time of your preference – was one of two pioneering initiatives the ultra-luxury cruise line had introduced to the market and won the vote of travel advisors. The other was Explora Journeys’ rolling commission structure.

Ungerer said that Explora Journeys was unique in that it was “able to start with a white piece of paper” when developing the brand, and had taken a “customer-centric approach from the very beginning, but also a travel advisor centric-approach.”

“From the very beginning, we did a lot of research. We surveyed around 20,000 qualified guests worldwide, and focus groups and advisory groups, and travel advisory groups, and we asked them What do you like, what don’t you like, what’s ticked you off, what do you miss?”, Ungerer explained.

“A couple of things emerged through the pandemic, and some were amplified through the pandemic. One was the rolling commission scheme because obviously if you do the work and your client pays their deposit, you should be remunerated right away.

Michael Ungerer, CEO, Explora Journeys at his first Virtuoso Travel Week

“So if your client pays a 25% deposit you also get remunerated with a 25% commission, within 10 days,” Ungerer said. An initiative that has driven sales, especially from Virtuoso-affiliated travel advisors, who he said were the first to book Explora Journeys, and another Virtuoso advisor had the highest volume of sales to date.

Credit: Explora Journeys/Facebook

Ungerer said the rolling commission structure – which provides commission on the balance of payment within seven days of final monies received, plus commission on air and add-ons such as Destination Experiences while on cruise – “emphasises not only our financial strength but also the real proof of wanting to establish a long-term partnership with advisors.”

Having spoken with front-line sellers at Virtuoso Travel Week – which was the Geneva-based executive’s  first-time presence at the Virtuoso luxury travel showcase – he quipped, the phrase ‘supplier‘ commonly used to describe Explora Journeys “actually hurts”.

“This is such a commoditised type of term. It’s such a transactional term.”

Supplier to me is ‘always an advantage at an expense of someone else’, but if you look at it as a partnership it’s very different. It’s a long-term proposition, and it can only be win-win if you have a partnership approach,” he told LATTE.

Ocean Suites aboard EXPLORA I

Referring back to Explora Journeys’ ‘By Appointment’ offering, Ungerer said it was initially launched in late 2021 to assist “lot of agents who were cancelling and rebooking and rolling future cruise credits forward, calling in, and waiting on hold for hours.

“We wanted to turn that around. It was a no-brainer really.

“You tell us when you’re available and then we’ll call you. And that’s how the ‘By Appointment’ service came about. And it was so popular, we are keeping it,” he confirmed.

Those initiatives, plus a generous 18% commission to preferred partners, and the removal of all non-commissionable fares, is proving a hit with travel advisors, he added.

“We are here for the long-term and working with advisors is key, absolutely,” Ungerer declared.

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