Ferry Business - Autumn/Winter 2019

International Cruise & Ferry Review Ferry Business 103 roviding fast and reliable ferry services between Seattle, Washington and Victoria in British Columbia has been Clipper Navigation’s unique selling point since it began operations in 1986. The company became the first to operate a passenger-only service between the two destinations, as well as the first to operate a high-speed catamaran in North America. Now, 33 years later, the company is still as successful as ever. “The core of Clipper’s 33 years of success has revolved around safety, reliability, great employees, regional travel planning expertise and relentless commitment to superb customer experience,” says David Gudgel, CEO of Clipper. “We know that our customers start their vacation the moment they step onboard our vessels, so it’s critical that we exceed expectations for that envisioned travel experience at every touchpoint along the way.” To ensure this, Clipper spends hours training its customer-facing staff. “Most of our employees are regional natives with a strong basis of expertise already, but we provide them with deep product and regional travel knowledge, repeated regular safety training and over-emphasise the importance of attention to detail and care. We ensure that every one of our staff members approaches their job at Clipper with a customer-centric mindset.” Core partnerships within the travel and tourism industry also form the backbone of Clipper’s success. “We cherish our partnerships – we have everything from longstanding relationships with hotel and tour operators, to strategic destination marketing organisation partners,” says Gudgel. “Clipper would not be the company it is today without the dedication and support of partners across all lines of our business.” Clipper’s principal business goals are also communicated clearly to employees, who are offered fun travel incentives and given sales targets to keep them engaged and motivated. Hence, Gugdel expects employees to be positive and dedicated. “We have many senior employees who have been with us for more than 15 and even 20 years of their career,” he says. “From captains and engineers, to reservation agents and administrative staff, we’re such a unique company in the Pacific Northwest and within the travel industry at large. Our employees truly believe in and stand by our product. It’s also hard to not have fun when your work centres around providing visitors with excellent travel experiences in one of the most beautiful regions of the world.” Ensuring employees focus on always going above and beyond to exceed customer expectations and encouraging them to build authentic dialogue and establish a vested interest in their travel experiences is essential. “Clipper’s mission is to provide highly curated and authentic travel getaways and experiences that are personally vetted by our team of travel experts with the goal of creating exceptional memories for our customers,” explains Gudgel. “With Seattle’s rapidly shifting demographics, we know there are still so many new residents who have not yet experienced a Clipper trip. We have a long runway of opportunity to work in tandem with our core destination marketing partners across our target markets to encourage travel across the region. Furthermore, we know that focusing on our core product and target demographics affords a lot more room for growth and opportunity. All the while, we are continually keeping an eye out and assessing opportunities for further regional growth and expansion.” Increasing environmental sustainability is also now a hot topic for Clipper, with the International Maritime Organization’s new 0.5% sulphur cap coming into force Runway of opportunity David Gudgel tells Sandra Speares about the latest developments at Clipper Navigation, which has transported over eight million travellers since starting operations in 1986 INTERVIEW