“Doesn’t it feel great to be cruising like a Norwegian?” quipped Dwain Wall, senior vice president and general manager, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc., as he welcomed more than 700 agents attending the two groups’ annual conference onboard the new Norwegian Breakaway this week. The ship is sailing roundtrip from New York with a three-day port call at Bermuda.
During the cruise, agents are attending general sessions, workshops and meet-and-greet sessions; they’re also touring the ship and experiencing the Freestyle Cruising product. Speaking in Monday’s general session, Wall characterized Norwegian Breakaway as a “magnificent ship” and “the best of New York City.”
He also talked fondly about the departure from New York on Sunday night with the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan on display for agents and Norwegian’s guests who enjoyed a top-deck sailaway party.
“That’s a beautiful sight,” Wall said of the skyline and harbor. “I always love it no matter how many times I’ve done it. It’s a reminder that we have the best job in the world - working in travel and making customers’ vacation dreams come true. It’s such a good feeling, isn’t it?”
Pictured: Dwain Wall, senior vice president and general manager, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. // All photos by Susan J. Young
Showcasing the 2013 annual conference theme of “Collaboration, Passion and Innovation,” Wall praised agents and suppliers and said the combination is potent: “Our strong partnerships have led to opportunities for us.”
CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. are part of the World Travel Holdings family of brands. Through negotiated partnership agreements, agents from CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. receive dedicated support desks, exclusive phone lines and discounted or free cruises so agents can experience the product.
“Our partnerships are critical to our success and they have never been stronger,” acknowledged Wall.
He also thanked the participating agents for making a commitment to attend the week-long conference. He asked new agents or first-time conference attendees to stand and 40 percent of the audience did so, showing the number of new faces at this year's conference.
Five regional training sessions earlier this year have attracted nearly 200 agents, breaking the company’s previous attendance record.
What else is new? During 2012, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. launched MyCruiseControl upgrades and a shopping path, a new override program, an online Learning Center redesign, enhancement of support services, extensive training and staff development and Bold Chat.
The cruise selling groups also launched eight home-based and funded promotions as well as a custom niche web site program.
In addition, the groups opened marketing contributions, added new recruitment videos, fielded YouTube promotions, unveiled a new recruitment brochure design, added new ad campaigns and brought public relations back in-house, among other achievements.
"Our [conference] theme this year is proof that when we work together with passion, while uncovering new and creative ways to conduct business, it creates a formula for success,” stressed Wall.
He cited something once said by the late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple. Jobs said innovation stems from people meeting up in hallways or calling each other at 10:30 p.m. at night with a new idea. Or, it happens when people realize that something the team has been working on has holes in it and people need to rethink that problem.
“Let’s face it - our competition will only get more fierce,” said Wall, adding that success is about responding to challenges and opportunities and having a constant flow of ideas. ”Status quo is no longer acceptable.”
While Wall said the two groups are having a tremendous year saleswise with the core business bookings up double digits, “to stay on top, however, we must remain innovative."
One way CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. hope to do that is through a recently launched new mobile platform.
By 2014, U.S. mobile travel bookings are predicted to grow 52 percent to $25.8 billion, according to Google. Mobile travel bookings will soon account for 18 percent of all online travel market business.
Walls’s view?: “We’re ahead of the game. We’re beating our competition - because we do not accept the status quo and we act with urgency, required to succeed in today’s business environment.”
Last year, the groups debuted new land-based sales opportunities for agents. Resort stays and land travel bookings now comprise 15 percent of total sales for CruiseOne and Cruises Inc.
Cruisers don’t cruise every vacation; some take land vacations. “Ask yourself, are you in it to win it?" Wall asked the audience. "Are you doing everything you could to drive this critical piece of your business?"
He said if agents are, they are to be congratulated but if not, now is the time to change and do something about it.
What’s ahead for 2014? Wall said agents can look forward to CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. headquarter staff rolling out more IT development, a land-cruise booking solution and even greater investment in even more land-based vacation initiatives.
Stay tuned to www.travelagentcentral.com throughout the week for more coverage from the CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. conference.