Regent Seven Seas Cruises' first gathering of its top producing agencies in Los Angeles this past weekend has been lauded by agents who are most impressed and enthusiastic about the line's new program of complimentary shore excursions, two-for-one fares and free airfare. Each agent Travel Agent has spoken with has said the same, "It's really a great way to get the phones ringing again and get customers cruising." Instead of discounting, Regent has taken what many believe is the right tack: keeping prices stable, but adding perks and value, which something such as free shore excursions offer. Moreover, agents' commissions won't be hurt by deflated fares.
This is Regent's first ever Council meeting, which has brought 61 agencies and 10 national accounts, who have grossed over $600,000 in sales, to the Ritz-Carlton Marina Del Rey. This is the first full year since Regent's sale from Carlson to Apollo and Mark Conroy, president of Regent Seven Seas, said it was important to gather everyone, especially after the sale to "get their [the agents'] pulse."
So far so good. Regent's contract with Carlson ended in 2008 and, only now, all of Regents' systems are converted. "Ninety percent of the glitches are under control now," Conroy said.
Business for Regent has picked up since January 5, Conroy noted. "We are seeing positive trends," said Ken Watson, Regent's executive vice president, noting that booking windows have, indeed, closed in. But the move toward free excursions, which need to be booked by March 31, were a test to drive business and add value and perks instead of discounting.
It's also a way for agents to stay more engaged with potential clients and stave off cancellations, which have increased since the dire economic fallout from September.
While many businesses have looked to scale back spending, Regent, via support from Frank Del Rio, chairman of Prestige Cruise Holdings, Regent's parent corporation, will spend twice as much on marketing this quarter than what they normally spend. "Now is the time to spend the money," said Watson, "we need to entice."
Asked about the decision to scrap plans for a Regent new build, Conroy said there would be opportunity going forward, particularly because shipyards are open and need the work. "We've put our plans on hold," Conroy said, "but there is now more flexibility." Waiting could also mean that they could build a new ship for cheaper than estimated before the economy swooned.
Today, agents will get a look at the $20 million refurbishment of Seven Seas Voyager, which has been outfitted with new carpeting, among other improvements, as it prepares for its world cruise, which departs Tuesday with 275 full world cruisers onboard. This evening, agents and world cruisers will get to enjoy a concert by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.