Start-up ultra-luxury cruise line Explora Journeys is eyeing an expanded team in Australia and Asia Pacific, with travel advisors “loving the team we’ve assembled,” says Chief Sales Officer, Chris Austin.
Speaking with LATTE last week at the Virtuoso AU/NZ Forum in Fiji, Austin said “we’re building a really strong team” in this market. That’s across the brand’s global excellence and experience centre teams.
Headed by Nicole Costantin as Head of Sales, APAC, the Explora Journeys team has grown to include Gillian Seller as Business Relationship Lead and Lauren Bevan as Sales Excellence Specialist (both formerly of Regent Seven Seas Cruises); the recent recruitment of James McCullagh as Business Relationship Lead (previously with Norwegian Cruise Line) and Matthew Backo as Experience Centre Ambassador (formerly Aurora Expeditions) working with Wanda Ferrand as Experience Centre Lead (previously with Crystal Cruises), who is an initial local team member, alongside Costantin, and nine months in the role.
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“It’s the visibility of these people and the trust they have already with the trade that is paramount,” Austin said. The same formula is being used by Explora Journeys in other key markets.
“We’re identifying people that really have credibility and trust, and we’ll keep on adding to the team.”
Quizzed about further team growth here, Austin said the MSC Group luxury cruise line was already considering “a minimum of two more positions” in Australia this year.
Also under Costantin’s remit as Asia Pacific head will be two new positions – one in Singapore and one in Japan – and potentially China, depending on how that market recovers from the pandemic freeze.
“We’re committed to the marketplace,” he said.
“One of the lessons the pandemic did teach is you really have to choose your partners wisely and carefully.”
“You can’t work with everybody. People say that their biggest issue is they don’t have enough time. Well, you could maybe make more time if you actually do narrow your field of partners,” Austin told LATTE. “You get to know a brand better, you get the support from them, etc etc.”
He said travel advisors have fallen for Explora Journeys’ story, and love the 18% commission, no NCFs and how simple it is to do business. Over 50% of bookings are coming through the Travel Advisor Centre, one of five ways to transact with Explora Journeys. Other options include inbound phone calls to the Experience Center, By Appointment, By Appointment+ and email.
Austin said some bookings have been made entirely via email, and it follows a common thread used by travel advisors to book luxury hotels.
“They’ll send an email to a hotel General Manager or Sales Manager or Director of Sales who they know, and the entire transaction is done over email. If that’s how someone wants to work, you’ve got to accommodate it.”