The cruise company Costa Cruises has launched an active activity in the Russian market, thanks to which more and more Russians are joining the multi-million army of fans of the Italian operator's cruises. We asked Costa's representative in the Russian Federation, Ekaterina Ilyushina, to tell us about the company's immediate plans and strategies for working with travel agencies in Russia.
- Ekaterina, what place do Russians occupy today in the Costa Cruises tourist flow?
- More than 3 million people annually travel with Costa Cruises around the world, but the share of the Russian market in this flow is still very small. Italy, Spain, France are in the first positions. Meanwhile, we consider Russia one of the most promising supplier regions for the cruise segment, it is important and understandable for us. That is why Costa pays a lot of attention to this market and we can see that it is responding positively to this.
At the end of each Costa cruise, tourists receive a questionnaire in which they are asked to rate the various services of the company on a 10-point scale. In general, for the global cruise market, the tourist satisfaction index with Costa Cruises services is quite high. Meanwhile, according to this indicator, the rating of Russian clients is even higher than the average indicator of the company. This means that the approaches used in our work with Russians are liked and close to clients.
- Cruises are not as popular in Russia as land tours. Why do you think? And what is the company doing to popularize cruise holidays among Russians?
- Yes, unfortunately, cruises are not yet very close to Russians, like, for example, Italians or Spaniards. Residents of these countries often see the sea, while the majority of Russian citizens need to travel to it by train or by plane. Russians have an idea of cruises through films, the press, photographs in social networks, but, as a rule, they do not appreciate this type of travel and rarely apply it to themselves.
To gradually overcome the barrier and make cruises available to many Russians, Costa, together with its partners, is conducting a large-scale PR campaign in our country to promote the cruise market in general and its cruises in particular, and works a lot with travel agencies.
- Do you note the growing interest of agencies in the cruise segment?
- Undoubtedly. But still a very large percentage of agents do not know how to sell cruises and know practically nothing about them. Rest on the water, and even more so a sea cruise, is a specific type of travel. A comparison with the ski segment is suitable here: if the agent knows the directions, slopes, slopes, resort hotels, sales will go, if not, it will be difficult for him to work with the client on “skiing”, it is almost impossible.
- What mechanisms do you include in working with agencies to reduce this barrier?
- We conduct many events aimed at training agencies, travel to Russian cities, communicate, get to know each other, answer hundreds of questions, help professionals understand the essence of the product.
For example, now Costa Cruises together with our partner Cruise Center "Infoflot" is holding a large Costa Festival in 10 cities of the country, which will end on October 14 in Nizhny Novgorod. Meetings with agencies will also take place in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kazan, Yaroslavl, Samara, Saratov, Rostov-on-Don, Yekaterinburg and Perm. Most of the seminars are held on the ships of the Sozvezdie Cruise Company. During this event, travel agencies get to know in detail the products of the cruise operator for the period 2019-2020. They are told about the rates and categories of Costa Cruises' cabins, routes, liners of the company, including the new flagship of the Costa fleet - Costa Smeralda, which will be launched in November 2019, as well as about the format of Costa Gold liners with expanded Russian-language service on board, promotions and special offers. In addition, agents are introduced to the embarkation / disembarkation procedure at ports, entertainment on cruise ships, the format of the excursion program on the cruise and other nuances of the product.
It is important for us to interact with such partners who are able to reach as many people as possible with information about Costa cruises through their connections, experience, expanded network and technology.
The best way to experience cruises is to be on board. Therefore, in the spring and autumn, we usually do agency visits within the Costa Sales Academy. The last such event this year took place from 28 to 31 August aboard the Costa Magica. The trip was organized along the route St. Petersburg-Tallinn-Stockholm. The cruise for travel agents included meetings, seminars, presentations, excursions on the liner, including in areas inaccessible to ordinary tourists.
- How much does such a cruise cost for the pros?
- The cost of travel for agencies is symbolic 100 euros, and this amount includes: the cruise itself and accommodation in the cabin, port fees, entertainment and meals on board, tips, one excursion, a package of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
- In 2020, the tradition of holding the Costa Sales Academy remains unchanged?
- Oh sure. The first departure is scheduled for spring. We expect about 100 participants on board.
- What other formats of Costa's work with agencies do you consider successful?
- The so-called Ship visit (showing the liner in the parking lot) have proven themselves well. This year we carried out them with Infoflot in St. Petersburg on board the Costa Magica liner.
In general, all our events show that the interest of agents in cruises is growing, but this growth is still provoked by an increase in demand from tourists who find out about this vacation in the media, social networks and other Internet sites.
Will Costa's strategy for working with Russian agents change in 2020?
- The vector of the company's work with the agency market does not change. At the same time, we are confident that the number of agencies working with the cruise product will continue to grow. Now the cruise sales market in Russia is underdeveloped, and it is necessary to actively develop it. There will be enough tourists for everyone, but at this stage it is important to create fertile ground for further fruitful work of the tourist business. Therefore, we rely on partners who can help us widely popularize this type of vacation in Russia.