In good news for travel agents, Carnival Cruise Line is kicking off a new, year-long promotional campaign entitled, “WUATA – Why Use a Travel Advisor,” designed to help travel agents attract new clients and deepen the loyalty of existing clients.
This multi-faceted initiative will include everything from social media posts to high-profile WUATA Parties in specific cities. Those community events will bring clients and industry experts together to promote the travel agent community; they'll be co-sponsored by the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) and Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).
“The proof is in my tattoo that Carnival is deeply committed to the travel agent community, and by introducing WUATA we’ll be able to share our passion so travelers gain a comprehensive understanding of the benefits of using a travel advisor,” says Adolfo Perez, Carnival’s senior vice president of sales and trade marketing, who proudly sports a tattoo designed to show his support of travel agents.
“Through WUATA, Carnival becomes the first cruise line to dedicate a year-long campaign focused solely on promoting the value of travel advisors, and we’re excited to get on the road to support the growth and success of our agent partners,” says Perez.
Internally, "we started talking about this several months ago, and we had been doing the bus tour for several years and we wanted to change something up,” Perez says. “We wanted to talk about how valuable travel agents are.”
Certainly, the cruise industry’s portfolio of cruise products has become much more complex, which cruise lines say makes it critical that consumers sail on the right product -- the cruise that best matches their personality and vacation style. For first timers, in particular, the choices can be daunting.
Carnival wants to ensure consumers use a professional travel agent when booking their vacation. As part of the campaign, agents can expect to see social media promotions, contests, exclusive merchandise, giveaways, text alerts and WUATA Word, an innovative crowdsourced word cloud that will grow throughout the year as the movement expands.
WUATA Word invites travel advisors and their clients to choose a single word that describes why using a travel advisor is beneficial. Once submitted online at www.WUATAWord.com, the word will join an always-growing digital cloud, which will be displayed at WUATA Parties and on GoCCL.com.
Perhaps most visible, though, will be the WUATA Parties. They'll initially be in four cities, although Perez hopes to expand that. For each WUATA Party, travel advisors will invite a current client to attend and that person will be encouraged to bring along a friend who’s “not-yet-a-client."
The first such party will be in Orlando, FL, on May 8, and both Perez and John Heald, the line’s popular brand ambassador and veteran cruise director, will participate. So will other Carnival sales executives and business development managers, plus ASTA and CLIA officials.
Other parties hosted by Perez (but minus Heald) are planned on July 24 in Minneapolis, MN; New York City on September 8; and Los Angeles on October 29.
“It’s a social event, so we’ll have drinks and some hors d’ouevres as well,” says Perez. “We’ll do a little bit of a presentation about Carnival – very small [presentation]. Then "we plan on having some of our Diamond guests who use travel advisors to come and do a presentation about why their relationship with their travel agent has been so important and why it makes sense for other people to use a travel agent.”
He says there will then be plenty of “fun stuff” too such as photo booths and games, although at press time, “we’re not 100 percent confirmed on what our agenda will be, but it really is an event to help us show consumers the value of using advisors.”
Drawings will be held for agent gifts from CLIA and ASTA, plus the Perez told Travel Agent that Carnival also will give away a free cruise at each WUATA event. When a consumer wins that, Perez says the travel advisor who brought that particular consumer to the party will be paid full commission from Carnival based on a seven-night, balcony cabin category fare.
All consumer attendees also will receive an exclusive Carnival offer of a three-category stateroom upgrade on select sailings. To register to attend one of the WUATA Parties, travel advisors can visit GoCCL.com.
The concept of an existing client bringing a potential new client along certainly can help build the pool of new cruisers for the industry. But Perez says it’s “really designed for our travel agent partners,” to help in educating people as to why they should use a travel agent for their vacation planning.
In addition, Carnival will create some videos from the events that it will share on YouTube and its Facebook page that travel advisors can use. “We’re going to have a lot of different opportunities there” for content, Perez said.
But Perez stressed: “At the end of the day, we want to get the message out about why people use travel agents.”
How many travel agents does Carnival work with on an annual basis? Perez says that Carnival has 100,000 or so agents in its database. “There’s probably about 30,000 agencies" represented, he adds.
Revenue from each agency varies greatly. Some might not work with Carnival much, such as selling only one or so cruises a year, perhaps not the next, and then selling more the following year. Many others, though, sell many more cruises on an annual basis or are top Carnival producers. Perez says many are independent agents working with host agencies or home-based travel advisors.
Clients and travel advisors can opt in to receive text alerts about new features and tools from the WUATA program throughout the year by texting “WUATA” to 866-Go-WUATA. The alerts will also cover the latest news, contests, offers and more.
Right now, “we have a lot of confidence in the program,” Perez says, and “four cities is a great start” for the WUATA Parties, but “I would love to have eight cities.” But he says the program is just getting started and more details will be finalized moving forward.
For more information, agents can visit www.goccl.com.