Reseller Distribution Strategies for Passenger Vessels

Written by Alec Windle
Last updated on Mar 23, 2023

Product distribution for passenger vessels following the pandemic shutdown has been similar to the waters they navigate. Once operations resumed, many companies trimmed down the scope of their reseller partners, some coming back online only selling direct. With limited departures for many, this was an operational necessity, but also cut out sizeable revenue driving partners that some were unable to replace.

With passenger vessels now blasting full steam ahead, many owners and operators are beginning to reevaluate their sales and marketing strategy. A new attention to partnerships is coming back into the fold. Having managed commercial sales and marketing for a large passenger vessel organization out of New Orleans, this piece aims to help vessel operators rethink their distribution plans for the upcoming season. With so many opportunities, from global online travel agent marketplaces and nationally recognized group travel organizations, you might find your greatest assets and the tools to get there are closer to home than you would think.

Some of the first reseller partners to fall during the closure were online travel agent partners, who prior to the pandemic had been gaining traction for nearly a decade. The logistics and staffing just to accommodate these bookings, for many organizations it was not worth committing to these partners. Throw in the commission expectation, and it is understandable many vessel operators have their trepidations. With operations now back closer to normal, operators are once again extending their availability. Here is a list of key strategies to consider during this off-season.

Online Travel Agent Strategies

1. Market-Only Specific Departures

Understand your availability and the needs in your schedule. Only list the departures that need assistance. If the customer is looking for that specific time slot, they will look at your website to book directly.

2. Product Strategy

Seasonal & Specialty Products

Use specific OTAs for listing your holiday and specialty products. Some partners are better at listing high-value experiences than others.

Kids & Family

Many vessel operators offer family and kid-specific events. Be sure to use your family-focused reseller partners for promoting these events. It’s also great marketing for your regular cruises!

Build products only for OTA distribution (VIP, Behind the Scenes)

OTAs love exclusive products, especially high-value options in popular tourist locations. You may think of developing a VIP or Behind the Scenes experience to offer to a key resale partner that distributes similar products.

3. Promotional Opportunities

OTA Specials & Holiday offerings

Work with your account manager at your travel agent partner to provide special deals for website promotions, like Black Friday or New Year's.

4. RocketRez Channel Management Tools

Need help managing your online travel agents? Set up a direct connection through RocketRez and control availability to all your OTA partners simultaneously! Plus, online bookings go directly into your system, entering the reservation, and pulling capacity with no data entry labour.

5. New to Online Travel Agents and Reseller Distribution?

Contact RocketRez for a consultation, our passenger vessel sales and marketing experts would be happy to assist.

Local In-Market Partnership Strategies

1. Important In-Market Sales Channels

Local Transportation Companies

Partnering with key transportation companies can be a great selling point to get your guests to the gate. Hop-on Hop-off, motor coach, and even trolly services are.

Hotel Concierge

Other Attractions in Similar Market (Transportation (Scenic Railway), Golf Courses, Casinos, Etc.)

2. Reseller Portal Links

For in-market partnerships, our RocketRez concierge sales portal links are ideal for booking reservations directly into your system without taking payment, so local partners can be directly billed for their bookings.

With so many online marketplace opportunities, it can often overshadow the impactful reseller partnerships available in your own backyard. Creative local partnerships can open the doors to a new customer base and additional revenue for both parties. Local partners are also often more accommodating to your booking and billing process. Sometimes just bringing your networks together is the best way to pull in a new audience.

Passenger Vessels

Alec Windle

Alec has worked in the travel and tourism industry for over 15 years. He was the commercial sales and distribution manager for Gray Line New Orleans and the Steamboat NATCHEZ, the last authentic paddlewheel steamboat on the Mississippi. Alec helped to optimize a complex and labor-intensive distribution and reservation system. In his four years at Gray Line, his team increased online travel agent revenue by more than 200% and implemented new technology tools to streamline processes and decrease labor costs. Acting as an Account Manager for a channel manager software startup focusing on the tours and attractions industry he managed the Walt Disney World account. Before joining RocketRez, Alec worked with museums such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian in the multimedia interpretation world. In 2021 Alec joined the RocketRez team. As an Account Manager, he uses his experience in the tourism industry to help strategically advise clients on how to use the software to optimize and enhance their business needs.