A strong Wave Season, new promotional offers, hefty interest in Alaska and Europe, and the prospect of new partnerships are among highlights of Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ sales efforts, according to Steve Odell, the ultra-luxury line’s newly appointed chief sales officer, and Shawn Tubman, SVP of sales, North America. Luxury Travel Advisor spoke to both executives about what's new and noteworthy for advisors to know.
Wave Season Update
This year's Wave is strong, says Tubman: “It’s going very well, and we’re very encouraged by it; just great demand overall for 2024 and, actually, 2025 and 2026. It’s really been strong, so hopefully it’s going to continue.”
Echoing that thought is Odell, who tells us "it was a very good January, and February is kicking off the same way. We had a call this morning and we’re all really confident that February is going to be another big month.”
Booking tidbit? “In addition to the strong demand, we also have fewer cancelations than at the same time last year," Tubman reveals. He says that combination brings less uncertainty in the marketplace. The line's Wave Season offers available to clients right now include an “Upgrade Your Horizon” promotion; plus, the line recently kicked off a Valentine’s Day promotion offering a $500 shipboard credit per suite for bookings through February 15, 2024. That can be combined with “Upgrade Your Horizon.” The line is additionally offering a $250 gift card promotion for trade partners during February.
Three Strong Regions
Talking about what’s “hot” destination-wise, Odell cites both the Mediterranean and northern Europe as selling extremely well. In addition, “our beautiful Seven Seas Explorer is in Alaska for the summer and we’re seeing good trending on that as well,” he added. While other regions are showing good interest, “those are the three that are really spiking.”
In terms of Europe, Regent Seven Seas offers diverse itineraries and many combination voyages. Odell tells us that luxury travelers this year are often seeking lengthier voyage options and itineraries that dip into a lot of countries. In the Mediterranean, he says that the line's sailings can take luxury guests from Barcelona, through the Italian ports and up to the Dalmatian Coast
"Those are the really popular ones,” Odell says, also noting that “the Greek Isles are always popular, particularly when the itinerary touches Turkey," such as sailings providing guests with an opportunity to visit ancient Ephesus.
Market tidbit? Luxury travelers are “booking up" this year, as well, according to Odell, explaining that they're increasingly opting for mid-range to top-end in their suite choice.
Growth Potential in Asia
As a cruise industry veteran with more than 35 years of experience, Odell joined Regent in October 2015 to spearhead the launch of the company’s Asia Pacific business across all three Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings brands. In 2019, Odell transitioned to the role of senior vice president and managing director of the Asia Pacific region for Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas. Now settling into his new chief sales role with Regent, Odell reports directly to Andrea DeMarco, the line’s president. Given Odell’s significant Asia region expertise, Luxury Travel Advisor asked him about the potential for Asian sourcing growth as well as increased demand for Asia itineraries from the North American market.
On the sourcing side, "those markets have big opportunities,” he says. That said, “I think the tendency in general is to focus toward the huge market in China,” acknowledges Odell, “but, really, the strength of luxury in Asia is mostly in Southeast Asia. In that collection of countries, there’s a huge growing wealth there and people are branching out and traveling more post-pandemic.”
Previously, those consumers were shorter-duration travelers. Now, he sees them taking longer cruises, and “we’re finding that they’re booking further ahead.” For Regent Seven Seas, those Asian markets comprise “a smaller piece of the puzzle [when considering other top markets, including Europe], but we’re heavily invested there, including people on the ground," says Odell.
Expressing pride at what his team has accomplished in Asia thus far, “the opportunity is huge with demand, having limitless potential,” he emphasizes. Yet, that encompasses 12 to 14 countries, so right now Regent Seven Seas is “most strongly focused on Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and Japan to some extent."
Within the North American market, Asia cruises offered by Regent Seven Seas often sell quickly, he adds. One unique offering? Recently, the line introduced a new, 14-night “Blossoms, Towers and Temples” itinerary sailing roundtrip from Tokyo, Japan. That offers guests overnights in every port, a enticing draw for travelers seeking a "deeper dive" into destinations.
Departing March 5, 2025, the 746-passenger, Seven Seas Explorer will sail to Kyoto (via Kobe), Japan; Seoul (Incheon), South Korea; Shanghai, China; and Tokyo. This voyage is one of six newly introduced “Immersive Overnights Collection” voyages for 2024-25, all with overnights in every port, and even a few double overnights depending on the itinerary. Regent Seven Seas says these voyages should appeal to new-to-cruise guests who are die-hard luxury hotel and resort fans, as well as cruisers who desire more time ashore in port destinations.
Increasing Luxury Competition
Looking at the luxury cruise marketplace as a whole, we asked Odell what the arrival of new players (Explora Journeys, The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, Four Seasons Yachts and so on) as well as additional capacity from multiple luxury lines (Silversea, Seabourn and others) means to his brand. First and foremost, Odell believes that it’s strategically important for Regent Seven Seas to "make clear the differences" between the brands.
He specifically mentions his line’s all-inclusive nature, saying, “You know everyone claims inclusiveness” but stresses that not all have the level of inclusions that his line offers. “So, I think that’s number-one" for Regent Seven Seas to focus on, he stresses.
But more broadly, he believes expansion in the ultra-luxury segment is a positive indication that more attention is being made and more money is being spent in the segment. Luxury travelers like trying new things and, so, from that perspective, it’s positive, he says. Another beneficial aspect is that the luxury hotel brands such as Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons and Aman are absolutely “going to bring the hotel customer to cruise,” he believes.
"We’re going to get lots of new customers from this kind of activity," Odell tells Luxury Travel Advisor. He adds that those luxury hotel guests may start with ultra-luxury yachting, get the flavor of ocean travel, like it, and then shift to a different kind of ultra-luxury cruise such as what his line offers.
Serving More Guests and Advisors
To serve an increasing number of guests and advisors who sell luxury, Tubman says Regent Seven Seas has added more staff in air as well as reservations: “We’re really drawing on quality people who are very quick to learn and very service-oriented."
In addition, the line has recently taken steps to assist advisors in better assisting guests and in targeting new-to-cruise clients (such as those luxury hotel guests) with the right tools. To assist, Regent Seven Seas recently revamped its RSSC University with all-new courses, content and tools, plus a bonus commission of up to $400 when the advisor completes a course.
Are any major changes coming related to sales department? In the North American market, “we’re pretty steady” in terms of the sales team and its structure, replies Tubman, who says “the growth lately has been in our trade marketing. I believe our success is predicated on our partners’ success.” He tells advisors to expect even more trade marketing and tools that help them effectively prospect, market and close the sale.
The Regent Elevate partner program already has those types of elements, but look for even more new insights, tools and incentives moving forward. “And, of course, our commissions have commas," Tubman says. "The return on investment is very high.”
“Coming in as the new kid on the block, what I see are long-term salespeople who
have great relationships, and that gives us a lot of stability and trust in the market,” Odell tells Luxury Travel Advisor.
Getting More Luxury Sellers
A strong effort is underway to assist those advisors who haven’t sold luxury and showing them how to do that, says Tubman. Fortunately, the line’s “consortia partners have all made increased efforts to sell luxury travel,” he adds, “so we’re both helping advisors to do that.”
Not surprisingly, advisors have told the line that their number-one training need is firsthand exposure to the line's product. Recently enhanced, the line's advisor reduced-rate program is now giving partners the ability to book and, most importantly, to get confirmed on a cruise further in advance, says Tubman. Previously, reduced trade fares were available 45 to 60 days out from sailing, but now advisors can book and get a confirmation up to nine to 10 months out. “The discount may be 50 percent off or 60 percent off, but they can get confirmed,” Tubman says.
The Sales Vision
So, what’s Odell’s vision moving forward? Tapping into his eight years of experience in the Asia-Pacific market, "my role is having a global umbrella to share best practices across the different markets," he says. "We are a North America-focused brand, but we have other opportunities to grow in other parts of the globe."
“The most important thing, though, is to get ahead in the game,” he stresses. “Competition is pulling up and we have to be the leader in strategic initiatives." He adds that the company is doing a lot of work on that and is heavily focused on differentiating Regent Seven Seas' all-inclusive product approach. As for the marketplace, "it's become a very crowded place.”
In his first month in the new position, he also desires to become a “best practices leader with partners, so there’s a lot of work that I’m involved in on that level. I’m a great believer in ‘pressing the flesh’ as we say in Australia—being on the street face-to-face, not hiding behind a desk, and being very present everywhere…We all as a group need to do more of that thing.”
Another top priority for Odell is developing more third-party partnerships to generate first-time cruise guest demand. He points to the line’s recent partnerships with Global Hotel Alliance (GHA) as well as Faberge, with the latter partnership being a little bit more focused and at the top end of the market. But, he says, advisors can expect more high-profile partnerships, which can open up new databases for reaching more new-to-brand customers.
While Odell, not surprisingly, views his brand as the luxury cruise market leader, he stresses, “It’s about building a future.” While he acknowledges that the line talks to all channels, he says that the trade is an important part of the line’s approach. Tubman emphasizes that one partnership announcement coming soon (but yet to be revealed) will have some enticing trade tie-ins.
In closing, Tubman tells us that 2024 is also about “reminding the trade of the opportunity for the growth in luxury. There’s really never been a better time to focus some of their marketing mix on luxury. We’re not saying focus on nothing but luxury, but surely add it to your marketing mix."