It hasn't been a breezy time for the cruise industry players as the Covid-19 pandemic enters into its second year, but cruise agents in Malaysia are making the best of the situation by unleashing their creativity and perseverance to tide them through the ongoing waves of uncertainty and challenges.
The current lockdown imposed across many states of Malaysia is clouding the outlook for cruise operators and agents in Malaysia, as an earlier plan to kickstart cruises in November last year has all but been shelved, according to Hwajing Travel & Tours' managing director Kenny Cheong.
Without clear indication as to when domestic cruises will restart in Malaysia, pre-selling the new Costa Firenze—which is scheduled to sail to Port Klang come December this year—is one key strategy undertaken by Cheong at Hwajing Travel & Tours, a PSA for Costa Cruises.
Hwajing is, meanwhile, offering unique packages that take into account the possibilities of another lockdown down the line and having that sailing cancelled.
“We will compensate the customers and our sub-agents if that happens. For the customers they will have a one category upgrade for the next sailing with tour fare protection insurance and for agents, protection of commission. In fact, [agents] will have double commissions as they will be paid for the cancelled sailing as well as the new sailing,” said Cheong.
He jokingly added that it could be to the advantage of customers and sub-agents if the sailings are cancelled, but the aim of pre-selling these packages is to entice more people to sign up for future cruises.
Cheong said Hwajing had previously received zero cruise bookings, but the launch of this package last October has since helped the firm to secure 100 bookings so far. About 50% of these bookings were from earlier sailings that were cancelled, he shared.
In a similar move, Holiday Tours & Travel has also been pre-selling future cruise holidays, vice president tours, Jamie How, told Travel Weekly Asia.
And with major cruise lines having put in place strict safety and health protocols post Covid to assure future customers, such measures are also driving enquiries and bookings but for the later part of 2021, with some new customers thrown in the mix.
“We’re focusing on [Royal Caribbean International] cruises nearer to home, starting in Singapore and visiting selected ASEAN countries with value-adds such as flight rebates, small group rebate and more," said How.
"We have developed a new product where travellers can discover Langkawi on a 3D2N luxury yacht cruise and will be launched in the near future with the proper SOPs in place,” she added.
Both cruise agents are hopeful that the vaccines and the pent-up demand for travel and cruising will revive more bookings down the line. For many Malaysians, travel is no more a luxury item but a necessity and part of the lifestyle, said Cheong.