In-Depth on Carnival's New "Travel Partner Toolbox"September 22, 2011 By: Susan Young
|Carnival's FUN-damentals is a four-fold marketing piece filled with information on ships, destinations and itineraries.// (c) 2011 Carnival|
Based on feedback from travel agents and its 32-member travel partner advisory committee, Carnival Cruise Lines is introducing a new virtual “Travel Partner Toolbox.” It enables retailers to access trade support and sales resources via the line’s travel agent portal www.goccl.com.
This e-toolbox is stocked with nine tool categories. New features include a travel partner rewards program, a centralized area for product updates, revised group deposit policies, new hard copy marketing materials and more. Many new features are available now, with the rewards program and marketing materials available in October. Travel Agent spoke with Joanie Rein of Carnival for details on the new programs.
“Over the last several months, we’ve met with thousands of travel partners and heard loud and clear that we needed better sales and marketing tools and easier access to existing tools while incorporating a little more fun into the overall sales process,” said Joni Rein, Carnival's vice president of worldwide sales.
In doing so, Rein acknowledged the line “didn’t do so well, with a few bumpy launches with technology in the past year. We heard about that, that sometimes the systems didn’t work, and the step-by-step process wasn’t intuitive to how the agent sold a cruise, so we really needed to take a look at it.” The line make tweaks -- creating many tools and features agents specifically requested.
“We took this feedback very seriously and worked closely with our travel partners and business development managers to create the Travel Agent Toolbox,” said Rein. “Within it, we’ve re-organized many of the tools our partners use and created some fantastic new ones, too.”
Rein encourages any agent who has had a bad experience with Carnival’s technology and hasn’t been back online lately, to come back and check out the tweaks in technology and new toolbox kit. “We’re learned from last year,” she stressed.
New Rewards Program
In the new "Travel Partner Rewards Program," partners will soon have the opportunity to earn and redeem points toward a variety of Carnival-branded gifts, gift cards, and Apple iPads.
Points will be earned by creating new bookings and servicing existing bookings on www.goccl.com, completing Carnival Cruise Lines University (CCLU) training, attending FAMs and ship visits and in other ways.
For example, agents may earn 2,000 points by completing their “Bachelor’s of Fun” course at CCLU. Or, they can receive credit for 300 points by attending a “From Your Home to Ours” event.
Points may be redeemed for a slew of options including a canvas tote for just 3,000 points, or, at the higher end of the redemption scale, an Apple iPad for 100,000 points.
Agents might use points to get gifts for themselves or, instead, give them to clients as perks, particularly for the lower point level gifts.
Does the line feel this rewards program will encourage cruise brand loyalty as airline or hotel programs do? Will agents steer more business to Carnival?
Rein says that would be a good side benefit, but primarily she believes the program will encourage agents to use the Carnival technology and to also have fun along the way: “Our overarching goal is to offer the program to all travel partners, to give them instant gratification, and to reward and benefit everyone [who participates].”
Extended Group Deposit Window
Another welcome change for agents is the extension of the deposit window for most group bookings. The existing time frame for a group deposit -- $25 per person to be paid by 30 days after the space is blocked – has been extended to a 60-day window after blocking space for most itineraries.
“What that [the 30-day limit] did is cause a challenge for our travel partners, as they had to block the space, then go to market, and get the block sold or a minimal number of cabins sold,” said Rein. “We heard from our partners handling true affinity groups that they couldn’t get it all done within 30 days. They just kept reaching out to us and saying: ‘It’s got to be the 60 days.’”
In addition, for large groups, the line is simplifying the terms of deposit regardless of ship, cruise length or itinerary. In addition, Carnival is introducing new penalty guidelines for large group modifications made 240 days prior to sailing.
Rein says the previous policy was too complicated, with penalties based on the length of the cruise and itinerary, and frankly, Carnival wasn’t competitive with other lines. “We have become more competitive now by having one cancellation policy,” she said.
The Travel Partner Toolbox features nine tool categories. In addition to the new Rewards Program and revised Group Deposit Policy details, the toolbox includes other features such as:
Product Updates: The toolbox is a centralized place for partners to easily find information on new ship details, ship features and itinerary changes. One new feature is the addition of new “interactive itineraries” where partners may click on a Carnival departure point and find out more details regarding sailings from that port.
Marketing Tools: After a soft-launch earlier in the year, Carnival is officially rolling out its “Cruise Party in a Box” kit filled with everything partners need for hosting an at-home selling party. Rein says the party is in the same vein as a home Tupperware or chef’s party.
The cruise party kit might also be used for a cruise night at children’s school or another type of event. With the CLIA’s National Vacation Week coming up Oct. 17-23, Rein says “why not get the cruise party going and order a box online?”
Travel partners will also find two new hard-copy tools, both requested by agents who wanted a hard copy to show or share with clients. One is FUN-damentals, a four-fold marketing piece filled with information on ships, destinations and itineraries. Another is FUN-Decks, a unique new deck plan tool which shows the various deck plans of all Carnival ships.
What’s in FUN-damentals? It has such copy points as why the client should choose a cruise over a land vacation, has information at the glance such as where each ship is, the itinerary, month and season when they’re at a particular region. It also has a section for an agency stamp, so the client comes back to the agency when they’re ready to book.
It’s All About You: Carnival has created a dedicated “Trade Engagement Team,” which provides a customized experience for partners. The team will give agencies tips on how to grow their business and answer general sales questions through inbound calls and e-mails.
The toolbox also includes existing, re-organized tools including “Working Smarter Not Harder,” a collection of online booking and service tools designed to free up time for travel partners; “Sales Central, which details Carnival’s latest promotions ; and “Awesome Events” including information about Seminars@Sea, Fun-tastic FAM weekends, shipboard luncheons, “From Your Home to Ours” and executive road shows.
In addition, the revamped CCLU, the line’s online training program, now has an updated Bachelor’s of Fun degree program. What’s new? Even if agents have already earned their degree, a new online chapter will serve as a beneficial refresher and also earn them points for the rewards program.
Rein says all the changes are” just the beginning of a dynamic program that’s really a cornerstone and a foundation of how we engage our travel partners. It’s a pretty big deal for us.”
During meetings and conversations with agents over the past months, she says, “there were three areas we heard loud and clear. We needed to have more visibility. We needed to be more approachable. And we needed to engage more with travel partners.” She believes the new virtual toolbox is a good initial step toward meeting those goals.
|Carnival's FUN-Decks is a unique new deck plan tool which shows the various deck plans of all Carnival ships.// (c) 2011 Carnival|
Yet to Come
What’s yet to come? In 2012, Rein said the line will expand “From Your Home to Ours,” a trade education program in which agents come to Miami for training and conversation with company executives.
In the coming year, that program will evolve into “From Your Home to Our Home Port,” with agents able to go to most of the line's 17 home ports, not just Miami.
“We’re rolling it out and making it more broadly available,” said Rein, noting that this will assist many agents who couldn’t afford to fly to South Florida. Now the program will be more “in your own backyard” for many agents nationwide, she said.
In addition, look for Carnival to roll out an online trade effort related to social networking in the second quarter of 2012.
Carnival is sending a new “e-mercial” to all trade partners via email. It’s also online at www.goccl.com. For more information about the new toolbox features, agents may also contact their business development manager or Carnival’s trade engagement team at 800-327-7276 or CCLSales@carnival.com.