"Achieve," the 2017 National Conference for Cruises Inc., CruiseOne and Dream Vacations onboard Royal Caribbean International’s Harmony of the Seas, concluded with a farewell message from Debbie Fiorino, senior vice president and Drew Daly, general manager of network engagement and performance.
In addition, a highlight in the final session were words of wisdom (outlined extensively in our separate story earlier today) from Brad Tolkin, co-chairman/CEO of parent company World Travel Holdings. He provided a high-level overview of the state of the travel industry and personal advice for being an entrepreneur.
The marketing and training departments also provided some additional tidbits for agents, plus the location for the 2018 National Conference was announced; see below.
What Inspires Agents?
Daly’s motivational presentation, entitled “What do you want to Achieve?,” encouraged attendees to think about who or what inspires them and reflect on what obstacles they face, which may prevent them from achieving their personal and professional goals.
He also talked about changing some consumers' fear of travel and how agents can help their clients. “A lot of people are in fear of moving themselves from their normal environment and fear of changing the way they think,” Daly said.
Agents should share their expertise, share that it’s safe to travel to Mexico (for example) and that cruising is the best vacation, he said, noting that, given the shipboard and shoreside experiences last week, agents have great content to farm out throughout the year on Instagram or in customer e-mails.
Daly, who just finished writing a new Amazon book, "Selling the Fun" (expected out soon), urged the retailers to post on social media, talk to clients about recent vacations or display souvenirs in one’s home or workplace.
Marketing & Training
Separately, Rosemarie Reed, vice president of marketing, and Kim Faiello, director of marketing, provided the agents with a bit more detail on the new the Vacation Superhero referral program announced earlier in the week.
It’s free to agents and requires no effort on the agent’s part, other than asking clients to go to their website and make a referral – with the opportunity of a Visa gift card reward if their friend books with the agency.
Clients also will learn about the program on the agency’s home page, as a banner in transactional e-mails and as an inclusion in direct mail pieces, email newsletters, flyers and social media posts.
Potential new clients are identified by their email, which also goes into the agency’s data base so agencies can grow their business.
“We think it is one of the best programs ever rolled out,” said Reed. “It’s the number one source to get new business. It’s easy for you, easy for the customer.” It’s being funded entirely by the headquarters group.
Andrea Giraldo, director of training and events, said four Regional Training programs for agents are planned for next year in Austin, Philadelphia, Fort Lauderdale and San Diego.
Separately, the group’s immersive education events will include a Group Summit in June, Luxury Summit in May, a Land Summit in August and a new River Summit onboard AmaLea on the Danube in March 2019.
And the headquarters team will add new “live control and systems training” as well as – in-house training for new and existing Cruises Inc. agents. In addition, the training department has added another training staffer.
Next Year's Conference
Supplier executives participating throughout the week included Vicki Freed (shown at right), senior vice president of sales, trade support and service, Royal Caribbean International, as well as other cruise, resort, insurance and motivational experts.
On the last day, Camille Olivere, senior vice president, sales, Norwegian Cruise Line, donned ice skates and made a loop around the Studio B ice arena, Friday’s conference site before showing a video featuring Andy Stuart, Norwegian’s president and CEO.
Stuart revealed that the three cruise brands’ 2018 National Conference will take place on Norwegian Bliss during a Mexican Riviera cruise departing from Los Angeles.
Advice and Insight
Debbie Fiorino, senior vice president of CruiseOne, Cruises Inc. and Dream Vacations, closed the conference by summarizing advice and tips she and other experts had shared with the agents throughout the week.
Among those were:
- Set goals, start with small things and work at it. Don’t get mired down in the big picture and the entire project. Begin with one step.
- Referrals plus reviews, either online or on social media, offer a recipe for success.
- Use hash tags on social media so you can share and people can see what you do.
- Go all in -- go beyond competing.
- Have no regrets.
- Build relationships. Always have a “wing man” and don’t go it alone.
- Step out of the comfort zone.
- Use vibrant story telling.
- Recognize that technology alone isn’t enough. The personal touch is crucial to success.
- Be authentic. Customers will see it if you’re not.
- Win with integrity, don’t win at any expense.
In addition, “know your value proposition,” Fiorino said, telling the agents that “people don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it.” So agents should find their ‘why’ and share with clients.
She said the new programs introduced at the conference, most notably are “designed to help you grow your business."
“The travel agent is back and here to stay,” stressed Fiorino, but urged the agents to remember that “complacency is the danger zone.”
Finally, she echoed an "action phrase" put forth by motivational speaker Ralph “Waldo” Waldman, former U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot, who spoke earlier in the week. She urged the agents: "Push it up.”