Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Seabourn Has Record Sales Day - What Does It Really Mean?

Seabourn announced it had its single busiest day of sales this past Monday with 830 calls in 11 hours.  It also noted bookings have risen by 40% over the prior month and there remains a very high level of first time guests. 

Now, keeping it real, while there is no way to turn the information into bad news, I do wonder how much of it is really good news.  We know that cruises that were selling for $5,499 per person last year are selling for as low as $2,499 this year.  We know that rather than selling 3 208 passenger ships and then adding the 450 passenger Odyssey, the 450 passenger Sojourn is now open for booking, so available berths are up over 125%.  In addition the booking window has increased, so bookings are being made into April 2011 (a full two years out).

One has to wonder how many of the bookings are going to stick.  Crystal Cruises recently admitted that they had pretty good success in getting bookings, but when final payment time came there were serious issues.  Crystal thinks it has adjusted its strategy and is now finding more consistency between deposits and final payments.  I am not aware of Seabourn having a similar problem, but I don't have any data other than my own to say that it should not find itself in a similar situation.

That said, and not being terribly swayed by statistics generally (ex. are less bookings at higher prices of more value than more bookings at lower prices?), I do see something pretty remarkable compared to the other luxury lines.

I repeatedly hear that Silversea's marketing over the past year has left most people wondering, "What is the product that I am going to receive?  Am I going to be paying for alternative dining?  A children's program?  French Polynesia?  Refurbished Silver Cloud?  Any details on the Silver Wind?"  Regent's marketing has left more people thinking, "Huh?  Let's fight over what tours are included, at an added premium, or simply unwanted.  Let's wonder when the food will improve and the service actually be consistently top notch."

The net effect for these two lines has been reduced bookings and, in the case of Silversea the problem of having increased inventory (with the Silver Spirit coming on line in December) and spreading its already thin passenger base over more ships.

But Seabourn is like a rather elegant bulldog...confidently moving forward unconcerned with its challengers.  It says, "This is Seabourn.  We do not compromise.  We are consistent.  You know what the product is you will receive."  And maybe...just maybe...in these uncertain times it is why I so enjoy selling Seabourn cruises and so many people are finding enough confidence to say that now...or in the future...they are willing to rely upon Seabourn to deliver a true luxury cruise vacation.

So it is not the record sales day that means much to me, it is the consistency of the phones ringing and the increased bookings with the increased inventory that tells me Seabourn is doing something right.