Signing Up Partners By Clocking Up The Virtual Miles
Our Business Development Managers, Rachel Healey and Mark Schmitt, estimate they have each made around 250 zoom calls in the past three months, rapidly building relationships with new partners.
The business development managers, who joined Tradewind Voyages in May, have worked tirelessly to sign up retailers, consortia, wholesalers and online travel agencies to work with the new cruise company.
But instead of visiting them in their offices, they’ve been clocking up the virtual miles via the videoconferencing tool.
“Nearly all discussion with partners have been on zoom because of the restrictions forced on us by the pandemic. I’ve not left my home and I’ve hardly used my phone,” said Healey.
The company’s ship, Golden Horizon, goes on sale on September 30 and 95% of business will go through the trade.
After being appointed, Healey and Schmitt worked together to identify 40 core agent partners to work with, plus a second tier of retailers to target as partners.
Both came from a cruise background and quickly focussed on their contacts, with Schmitt concentrating on the north and Healey the south.
Schmitt believes the new working conditions have given them some advantages and doesn’t expect working life to ever be quite the same as it was pre-Covid 19.
“I’ve covered so much more ground than I could have done if I’d driven round to meet people, so it has been a big help from that point of view,” said Schmitt.
“Of course, face-to-face meetings are important and it’s what I love, but I suspect that in future, rather than meeting a big supplier every quarter, we will meet once a year and have then connect on zoom for the other three meetings.”
Both are close to confirming various partners ahead of Tradewind Voyages’ official launch and say that the feedback from agents has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Everyone has been incredibly supportive and keen to work with us,” said Healey.
“Agents have been desperate for some good news and they feel this is something really positive that they want to get behind.
“They love the style and the ambience of Golden Horizon and that it is something unique in the market.”
Schmitt said Tradewind Voyages’ sustainability credentials – the ship plans to sail for on average 70% of its season on worldwide voyages – was hugely important to partners.
“People are fascinated that we have used planned the itineraries to follow the wind and the sun,” said Schmitt.
“As we go into the new world, we’re confident people will want smaller ships with lots of deck space.”
“The preview brochure has been very well received and we’ll follow up with a full brochure at launch.”
Unsurprisingly, there have been challenges as they work with agents who are going through the most difficult trading period in their history.
“The biggest challenge is that companies still have teams on furlough, or individuals on annual leave, or facing the possibility of redundancy,” said Healey.
The government’s sudden decisions to force anyone returning from certain countries to go into quarantine, and the collapse of companies like CMV, have meant potential partners have suddenly had to switch their focus to deal with the crisis.
“Many businesses were very buoyant about the green shoots of recovery, but then the quarantine rules have hit consumer confidence and agents have had to deal with immediate problems,” said Healey.
However, Schmitt said despite the current travel restrictions, companies were continuing to approach them about being partners.
“It’s been such a rollercoaster for so many, but there is a feeling now that people don’t want to miss out on something this special.
“We are very optimistic about the future with our trading partners.”