Savenio boss startled by advisors not selling cruising

Luxury cruise expert David Brandon offers tips to his success

With 40-odd years of travel industry experience amassed, David Brandon, the Founder and Managing Director of Savenio, remains baffled some travel advisors continue to avoid selling cruising. Some from within his own ranks.

As the adage goes, there’s something for everyone, and that rings loud and true for cruising.

“It’s all about horses for courses,” Brandon says in reference to pairing the right cruise with the right cruiser.

“I just don’t understand why some agents don’t want to do cruising because it’s such an easy sell. And the revenue is there,” he tells LATTE while aboard Silversea Cruises’ Silver Muse earlier this month.

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Brandon got his first taste of luxury cruising courtesy of Diane Patrick from Wiltrans, who invited him on an educational in the Mediterranean aboard Silver Shadow more than 20 years ago. And he’s been hooked ever since, regularly booking clients from around the country aboard Silversea and the other players in the high-end space including Seabourn and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

Pre-COVID, and now post-COVID, ultra-luxury cruising has proven to be one of the most highly-sought travel experiences. Quizzed by LATTE that despite the continued resurgence in the demand for cruising, if he believes advisors are refraining from jumping on board, Brandon’s response was transparent.

“Oh yeah, even within our group. Some don’t want to sell it,” he said.

Advisors are used to doing in-depth itineraries. Some will book a six-week itinerary through Europe for their clients – all the hotels, transfers, sightseeing tours, and restaurant reservations. It is rewarding but takes up a great deal of time.

“I used to do that too. And I used to love doing it… before I found luxury cruising.”

David Brandon, Managing Director, Savenio

“With cruising, there’s nowhere near as much work involved.”

Brandon explained that those Savenio consultants not selling cruises are dealing with established clientele that the consultant is confident would not be interested in a floating holiday.

But the luxury cruise expert suggests “every client is a cruiser, they just haven’t been educated or offered the right product yet.”

“Many don’t know what it’s all about, or they’ve seen all the mass market ships and not the more intimate, luxury cruise alternatives.”

Silver Muse, Sydney Harbour

Brandon’s tip for selling cruise is to flesh out as much information from a prospective new cruise client from the outset to gauge which brand will suit them.

“Always ask a lot of questions. Generally, start with; If you go to a hotel, where do you normally stay? If you go to a restaurant, where would you dine? If they haven’t cruised previously, how did they travel before?

“There are a lot of little things that come that you can pick up and you can start to position them with a cruise line to suit their expectations and requirements.”

You’ve got to put it into perspective. Some people like staying in a Shangri-La, some like the Park Hyatt… they like to repeat. The client wants consistency.

“They love to come back to the same thing because that’s what they are used to.”

Brandon also encouraged travel advisors to take advantage of hosted events by luxury cruise lines that have also rebounded strongly since the pandemic, which can validate the advisor’s recommendation for a given client.

Ship tours for potential new-to-brand cruise clients are also invaluable, he suggests.

“I would do ship inspections and bring clients onboard in Sydney, Brisbane, Townsville and Cairns and the client gets a feel of the ship as well. Nine times out of ten we’ll get a booking out of it.”

For his repeat clients that are cruising, he encourages them to take advantage of the specials offered onboard for future sailings such as the 5% discount, with the new booking coming back to the advisor.

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy | Credit: Mike L/Unsplash

Brandon said European voyages remain his most frequently requested itinerary, with Italy no great surprise as the most favoured destination.

“A lot of clients are interested in the polar regions: Antarctica and the Arctic,” he told LATTE

Clients have had three years off and they are now at the age they need to go.

He says high-end expedition cruising has reached new heights in recent years, with the launch of Seabourn Venture and her sister ship Pursuit in coming months, and the addition of Silver Endeavour (formerly Crystal Endeavor) to the Silversea fleet. Brandon was on the Crystal advisory board when Crystal Endeavor was being constructed.

Silver Endeavour, Silversea Cruises' newest fleet addition

“She is an absolute stunner. She doesn’t look the same as this,” he said in reference to Silver Muse. Endeavour is likely the best luxury expedition ship at the moment,” he remarked.

For Savenio as a whole, and as a consequence of the pandemic, the Virtuoso member has downsized its frontline office presence in favour of a work-from-home environment for its consultants. And revenue for the independent luxury travel specialist is booming, with sales recovering strongly since the pandemic.

In fact, “revenue is now stronger than ever” at Savenio and outpacing pre-COVID levels,” Brandon concluded.

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