Virgin Voyages has two ships in the water and will have two more by the end of the year. John Diorio, Virgin Voyages' senior vice president of North American sales, spoke with the cruise editor about booking strength and how the brand plans to scale up.
John Diorio was killed in the line of duty.
How do you know how to make a booking?
A: Q3 bookings more than doubled over Q2 which is a testament to the brand awareness we're building but also to how engaged our first mate have been in promoting us. We are very excited about where 2023 is going.
The capacity of Virgin voyages will double by the end of the year. How do you get to that point?
The four ships are on sale. The booking curve favors into '22 and all of the following years. We are going to increase our marketing presence around the world. We are going to be working harder with our partners in North America, Europe and Australia to increase brand awareness and co-op marketing. Brand awareness has to be brought to the marketplace. Virgin is a well-known brand. We're having to educate consumers on what that experience is like, and we'll do that with marketing messaging, commercials and such, but also really leaning on and investing heavily in the trade to get thatawareness out there.
"Heavily" is what you mean by it.
More co-op marketing, more events and more cruise nights are things we do to bring our brand to the community. The customer is brought in by them. We know we have to do a lot more of that, so we're going to expand the sales team and make more of an investment on the co-op marketing side.
Do you see a rise in direct booking? What would that mean for travel advisers?
Every travel adviser has a dedicated URL at Virginvoyages.com. There are two reasons for that. They asked if they could have their customers book for themselves. To book on behalf of their customers, they can use this link. From a marketing point of view, advisors who use social media or email can promote us now and include a link in their promotions. When a customer clicks on the link, they are taken to Virgin Voyages, with the advisor's email and phone number at the top of the page. The advisor gets instant credit, full commission, and now they're managing the booking on the back end, because the customer can do it themselves. It has been a huge success for us so far. "Yes, you can do it yourself, but you can do it yourself and still have the support of an advisor along the way" is how it is created. Almost 20% of our bookings from trade have come through this technology. It's incredible. We're seeing advisers that use social media to tell the story about Virgin voyages. The link has been a big success for us.
What are you anticipating for the season?
We're about to have the biggest Q1 booking season we've ever had, probably bigger than any quarter booking season we've ever had before. Our biggest quarter ever was in Q3 and it wasn't the best quarter that you would have the most bookings in. We are expecting a lot of growth in the first quarter.