One year in, Windstar says it's delivering on 'Star Promise'

The 'Star Promise' includes new destinations for Windstar's fleet of small ships The 'Star Promise' includes new destinations for Windstar's fleet of small ships

In 2016 Windstar Cruises launched its 'Star Promise' with the goal of becoming travel agents' best partner for small ship cruising.

The 'Star Promise' revolves around four cornerstones: an extraordinary guest experience for travel agents’ clients, fresh sales tools and support to help agents build their business, outstanding educational programs for agents both experienced and new to selling Windstar and excellent agent service every day, every interaction, every reservation.

The initiative included executive-level commitment to putting agents first, expansion to global deployment with new destinations including Asia, Alaska and Canada/New England and 24/7 agent access to book and manage reservations through a new online booking engine.

'We are seeing overwhelmingly positive results. Every day I hear from one of our valued travel agent partners about how a particular initiative has helped them increase their Windstar sales as well as grow their business overall,' said Steve Simao, vp sales. 'We’ve worked hard to deliver on our promises in the past year and I can confidently say we have delivered.'

Group business has doubled under the new program, and Windstar reports agents are excited about the redesigned and easy-to-use Agent Hub. The hub serves as a one-stop-shop for sales promotions, company news, training tools and other resources, and provides access to bookWindstar Online, the new booking tool for agents available 24/7.

Investing in top talent such as cruise and travel industry veteran George Howell as senior director of guest services is another move. Windstar said Howell’s in-depth knowledge and first-hand experience as a front-line travel agent and travel agency and wholesale travel manager allows him to understand the needs of agents selling upscale travel.

On the guest experience front, Windstar offers a James Beard Foundation Culinary Cruise Collection, and along with introducing new destinations, is focused on opening bookings further out so agents and their clients can plan ahead. In addition, Windstar noticed a number of travelers were booking back-to-back cruises and introduced 'Star Collector' voyages to help agents book these clients. Complimentary daily laundry on all sailings is a bonus to help close the sale.

The new Star Groups program offers increased discounts and a new, more profitable tour conductor policy of 1:7 or 1:9, depending on dates. Beyond groups, when agents include Windstar in their marketing programs, they receive a shipboard credit for the agency. Windstar's sales team also launched a Facebook page dedicated to agent news and engagement.

In still another initiative, the line refreshed and updated its online 'Star Specialist' travel agent training program and is offering new familiarization trips, with more than 500 travel professionals taking advantage in the last year. A new agent newsletter, 'Trade Winds,' covers Windstar news and sales tips.

Through September, the line is offering an incentive program for agents who use bookWindstar Online.

Posted 17 August 2017

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Anne Kalosh

Editor, Seatrade Cruise News & Senior Associate Editor Seatrade Cruise Review