Tools of the TradeMarch 12, 2012 By: Susan Young Travel Agent
|Home-based agents may productively build their knowledge of NCL’s accommodations, such as the Norwegian Jade’s three-bedroom villa, with the line’s online courses.|
Increasingly, the big oceangoing cruise lines “get” that home-based agents have unique marketing, sales and business needs. So they’re either introducing specific home-based tools or developing new programs and training that encompass multiple business models. Here’s a sampling of some of the best tools we’ve seen early this year.
Take a Test Drive: For home-based agents, their top group leader or best pied piper prospect, Celebrity Cruises has introduced ship tour and lunch experiences in U.S. port cities. The events are held on Solstice-class and newly “Solsticized” Millennium-class ships.
The next program is on March 26 in Fort Lauderdale onboard Celebrity Equinox. To follow are: Celebrity Silhouette at Bayonne, NJ, on April 10; Celebrity Infinity in San Diego on May 8; Celebrity Summit in Bayonne on June 3; Celebrity Infinity in Seattle on June 15; Celebrity Millennium in San Francisco on Sept. 19; and Celebrity Infinity in Fort Lauderdale on Nov. 7.
For participants, Celebrity is also throwing in a special limited-time offer available for seven days after the event date. To qualify to participate, agents must complete Celebrity Cruises’ 5-STAR Academy on CruisingPower.com; it’s part of the “Working with Us, Training and Certification” section. Then request to register by sending the following to firstname.lastname@example.org: event date and city; agency name, phone and e-mail; agent’s first and last name; and number of clients (up to two). You’ll receive verification from the line of your eligibility, and if so, details on how to register online.
Online Marketing Tools: Online promotional tools are highly professional in appearance and can be customized. So a home-based agent can compete effectively with a larger agency. Nearly every line has a slew of such tools so check the websites of your top partners regularly. Here are two examples.
Agents heading to the website of Holland America Line, and selecting Travel Agent Headquarters will reach an umbrella trade resource. Using the Marketing Tools tab, travel sellers can go in and personalize advertising templates, order sales materials, build e-mail tools and order customizable direct mail. Agents also may browse e-brochures and fleet facts, apply for the Individual Incentive Program and download online banners, images and videos.
An agent value-card is just one of the creative tools available at the Royal Caribbean International site. Giving the card to clients when you first meet them at a restaurant or other off-site locale shows your professionalism and value to the client. Or, take along a deployment wheel to help you track where the line’s ships sail. If you welcome clients to your home office, order the Europe Ceiling Mobile, a snazzy, two-tier colorful cruising prop. Also, expect new online collateral materials based on “The Sea is Calling” marketing campaign; you’ll soon be able to order (for a fee) small talking shell figurines, pens, logo bags and water bottles for clients.
Cruise Party in a Box: Avon, Pampered Chef and Tupperware products are successfully sold at home parties, so why not a cruise? The creative “Cruise Party in a Box” tool by Carnival Cruise Lines can be used by any type of agency, but it’s particularly designed for home-based agents who need to create a fun atmosphere with potential clients. A $20 donation to St. Jude Children’s Hospital, Carnival’s targeted charity, is required to receive the box.
|Carnival’s “Cruise Party in a Box” is designed primarily for home-based agents who need to create a fun atmosphere with potential clients.|
Inside, you’ll discover a slew of fun things to create a cruise event to close the sale with key clients. Included are multiple Hurricane glasses, mariachi shakers, a Carnival DVD, Carnival cocktail booklet, five curly hanging decorations, multiple balloons and Carnival logo coasters and napkins. You’ll also receive access to a customizable e-vite so you or your group leader can invite future customers to the party.
Video Assistance: To improve your sales on Silversea Cruises, the ultra-luxury line recently made its online booking engine more user friendly and added new online training videos. Go to the travel agent section of the company’s website at your convenience to view eight short videos on different topics; total time anticipated to view these is only one hour. They’ll familiarize you with the line’s reservations system and options available when booking online.
Back to School: Home based agents are often “me, myself and I” for their agency’s staff, so getting time off to attend cruise line training in a far-flung city may not always be doable, depending on your monthly schedule. Travel Agent University is the place to go for top-notch training and educational courses that help you sell such lines as Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Oceania Cruises or Crystal Cruises’ Europe 2012 and All-Inclusive.
In addition, some lines operate their own training. Norwegian Cruise Line operates NCL University, which plans to launch a Family course to help agents understand the line’s new youth programming. It’s also working on a Loyalty course to teach travel partners how to retain clients, and another new SEO/SEM course will go live within the next two months.
Powering Your Bookings: A host of lines have booking engines for agents to utilize, but agents often cite Princess Cruises’ POLAR Online as an industry stand-out. You can do everything from print boarding passes for clients sailing within 100 days to creating group bookings and picking group amenities. You can also pay for client bookings directly from your agency’s own bank account. POLAR Online now has what Princess calls “the number one feature requested by agents.” Agents can access clients’ air details 60 days prior to the cruise departure—viewing schedules for Princess FlightChoice reservations as well as adding information for those with independent air.
Home-based Input: What tools do oceangoing lines have that you feel most benefit you and why? What would you like to see next? E-mail your ideas to email@example.com and we’ll feature the best ones in an upcoming Travel Agent article.