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5 Questions with … Ellen Bettridge, President of Silversea, The AmericasApril 17, 2013 By: Travel Agent Central Contributor Travel Agent
1 Travel Agent: You’ve been at Silversea for a year now. How has the year gone? What are you enjoying most about your new job?
EB: It’s been an amazing year. I’ve had the chance to get feedback from our customers and travel agents alike to help me evaluate where we stand in the industry. And I’ve had the privilege to meet many of our travel partners nationwide and also to get to know our staff, both shipboard and shoreside, whose talent, enthusiasm and dedication are responsible for keeping Silversea at the forefront of luxury cruising.
As a former travel advisor, I find my new role at Silversea offering the rare opportunity to experience and better understand the supplier side of the travel equation. At the same time, it’s been an enjoyable transition because, prior to my arrival, Silversea had already established many agent-friendly policies. So over the past year, I’ve focused on building upon the existing programs and introducing new ones as well to help agents acquire the knowledge and confidence they need to sell luxury. It wasn’t about changing things dramatically; rather, we just needed to do a little tweaking to provide more support programs to drive business to agents and take their agencies to a whole new level.
2 Travel Agent: You’ve spent a lot of your time visiting with Silversea’s top travel advisor partners. What have they been telling you? How are they doing these days?
EB: One of the big concerns they voiced to me had to do with all the confusing pricing promotions and incentives that were out there in the marketplace. We’ve also heard over and over about fares not being guaranteed and agents taking a lot of flak from customers over this matter. When fares drop after booking, customers lose confidence in them. We want customers to have confidence in their agents and confidence in Silversea.
As a result, I saw this as an area where Silversea could stand out from the pack and actually help agents and their clients. That’s why we introduced our simplified Silver Privilege fares. In conjunction with the Silver Privilege Fares, we also introduced our Fare Guarantee Program, which gives clients the peace of mind in knowing that, should the Silver Privilege fare drop after their booking is made, they can receive an adjustment such as a shipboard credit, suite upgrade, future cruise credit, fare reduction or other modifications.
But I also heard a lot of comments from agents expressing their frustration with rebating. As a result, we’ve tightened our anti-rebating policy to create a level playing field so agents can use their expertise to create a luxury vacation perfectly tailored to their client—and truly reap the financial benefits of selling luxury travel. And with that aim, we’ve also launched our online study program on Travel Agent University that makes selling the ultimate luxury travel experience easier than ever.
Based on the feedback we’re receiving from travel agents, these changes have been very well received and we’re seeing that reflected in their increased bookings with Silversea. I have a pocketful of great agent success stories. Agents who didn’t work with us before are now selling Silversea…just by reintroducing ourselves, ensuring they had the tools they needed and listening to their needs.
3 Travel Agent: Can you give us an update on the Silver Galapagos? How is that refurbishment going? What will Silversea customers see when they get on the new ship?
EB: The exterior has already been painted the same dark blue as Silver Explorer, and the actual refurbishment of Silver Galapagos is scheduled for mid-September in Panama. The interior décor will be modern classical with the use of light local colors and themes to connect with the nature of the Galapagos Islands. For dining, there will be an emphasis on regional immersion reflected in the food and wines. So ultimately, the experience will be in true Silversea style, with a touch of Latin American flair.
|Silver Galapagos will undergo refurbishment in September.|
We’re very excited about our new Galapagos program. We’ve had great success with Silver Explorer and we expect Silver Galapagos will be equally popular with adventure travelers who appreciate luxury. Plus our new partnership with the Royal Geographical Society, and the wealth of geographical research and archive material they will be sharing, is sure to enrich the experience for our guests on both ships.
4 Travel Agent: What is your latest initiative for travel advisors?
EB: I’m very excited about our new “Partner for Success” campaign. This new campaign is designed to demonstrate our commitment to the travel agent community by showcasing the variety of programs that are available to help agents sell Silversea more easily and profitably. All of our new agent programs are now joined together in “Partner for Success.”
And perhaps the most attractive component of the “Partner for Success” campaign is our first-ever sweepstakes offering travel agents the chance to win a brand new Mercedes-Benz C250 sedan. For every Silversea deposited booking that agents make between April 1 and December 31 for a 2013 cruise, they will be eligible to enter a lucky draw for the car—plus their clients (who are booked with a deposit on a 2013 cruise during that period) will be able to receive an entry for a chance to win a 7-day Silversea cruise in 2014. Travel agents should visit the travel agent section of Silversea.com for complete details.
5 Travel Agent: You’ve moved from New Canaan, CT, to Fort Lauderdale, FL. What’s the biggest difference in the lifestyles of the two towns?
EB: Living in South Florida has turned out to be a simpler way of life for our family. We live less than a mile from the Silversea office, so the short commute gives me more time to spend with my family. Our new neighborhood is a charming, small community, and has given us a very warm welcome. But each weekend is still an adventure as we navigate our way around South Florida. I do miss the quaint town of New Canaan, the seasons, and our friends—but not the one hour and 40 minute commute to New York City. I am very fortunate that the transition has been so easy.