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Arrivia broadens cruise awareness, delivers high-value customers

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'When times are difficult, people actually turn more to their currency. Who doesn't want to be able to stretch their dollar a little further by being able to use points?' Mark Wilson said
Cruises are becoming a bigger part of loyalty/rewards programs and members who choose them are more valuable customers, said Mark Wilson, VP product strategy and operations for cruise and tour, Arrivia.

Arrivia is a leading provider of loyalty, reward and incentive programs. Traditionally, these focused on air travel, hotels and gift cards.

'Cruises are a fairly new category or a nice extension to a program,' Wilson said, adding that Arrivia brings 20 years of expertise to help partner companies incorporate cruises into their rewards. This could mean harnessing Arrivia's technology to use credit card or timeshare points to buy cruises or, if a company doesn't have a 'currency' program, creating and managing one for it.

Arrivia's thousands of partners span travel, hospitality and financial services sectors and include big names like American Express, USAA (insurance/financial services for military and veterans) and Marriott Vacation Club (timeshare owners). In total, these partners have many millions of members.

More than 40 cruise brands, worldwide itineraries

Cruises are Arrivia's biggest revenue source and the company offers more than 30,000 worldwide itineraries from over 40 cruise brands across all categories — luxury, river, expedition, contemporary/mainstream, premium.

Wilson said customers' points or currencies can go further with a cruise purchase since Arrivia works with suppliers to offer special rates and promotions that aren't available in the open market.

'We can create fantastic value,' he said.

Valuable customers

For the suppliers, 'We're sending high-value guests' and 'We can help them fill their ships early.'

Cruises booked through loyalty programs are typically reserved further ahead — a year or more — since members are planners. Vacation timeshare owners, for example, are used to planning ahead.

And when people use their points or currencies, the bookings tend to be 'stickier.'

Moreover, Wilson said these customers buy up, favoring a longer or more exotic cruise, or a higher category stateroom — most book balcony  accommodations and above.

And loyalty members have what Wilson called a  'two-wallet' mentality. Since their loyalty currency offsets what they pay for the trip, when they go onboard, they spend more. This, he added, leads to greater customer satisfaction since indulging in spa treatments, taking excursions and other extras enrich their experience.

'Our goal is to drive more engagement and repeat activity,' Wilson said.

Education role

Loyalty members may not think of cruising so Arrivia plays an educational role.

'A lot of this is about educating people what an amazing value cruising is,' Wilson explained. 'Most people love it and they will come back.'

Arrivia also highlights suppliers' bundled pricing promotions like Norwegian Cruise Line's 'Free At Sea,' 'Princess Plus' and 'Princess Premier,' which Wilson said resonate well with members and the included amenities are 'super popular.'

Strong plans to travel

With the cruise business still in pandemic recovery mode and after lines' marketing spending was cut during the shutdown, there is ground make up.

Wilson said the great news is that 'Our members are continuing to purchase and renew their memberships as they always have been. That's really exciting. That tells us our members love to travel and they expect to continue to travel.

'When times are difficult, people actually turn more to their currency. Who doesn't want to be able to stretch their dollar a little further by being able to use points?'

Points redemption for travel is continuing and maybe increasing a little, with people upgrading and spending more to treat themselves, though current bookings are little closer in than pre-pandemic. As cruising resumes, North Americans have stayed closer to home, favoring cruises to Alaska, the Caribbean, Mexico and Canada/New England, though Wilson said Europe is still doing well.

Demand for 2023 Europe

He predicts strong demand for 2023 Europe and Alaska cruises, along with more exotic itineraries, however steep airfares are a challenge.

'Cruising is the best value it's ever been. The satisfaction scores are off the charts. They're delivering a better product than ever before,' Wilson said. 'I'm excited for the future of cruising.'

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