CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. agents sold a recent Celebrity Solstice charter to 749 passengers
Speaking to several hundred franchise owners of CruiseOne and independent agents of Cruises Inc., Dwain Wall, senior vice president and general manager, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc., kicked off his organization’s joint annual national conference on Carnival Pride in early October with some positive news to sweeten agents’ revenue performance.
Founded in 1992, CruiseOne, a cruise travel franchise, has over 550 locations. Cruises Inc., a cruise travel host agency, was founded in 1982; it has nearly 500 independent contractors. Together, the companies are part of World Travel Holdings (WTH), the nation’s largest cruise retailer.
In a new override program, franchise owners and agents who sell travel products of preferred partners will have the potential of receiving annual bonus commission incentives. It’s estimated that the first round of participating agents will earn an average annual bonus commission of 1.5 percent, based on their total sales of preferred partners. “Many of you will earn commission checks—that you didn’t expect—in 2010,” said Wall.
He said the two groups have just finalized a new policy with Travel Guard; agents will now have their commission protected when the client uses the “cancel-for-any-reason” policy, something “you have all been waiting for and wanting,” said Wall.
In addition, Wall unveiled a new land program—designed to enhance the agents’ portfolio of high-quality options—with 10 preferred land and tour operator partners. “It’s going to be a dramatically improved process for us” in selling land, he said. “It’s going to increase your earnings potential and will further position us as a travel industry leader.”
Dwain Wall, senior vice president and general manager, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc.
Travel Agent learned that the preferred land and tour operators include: Apple Vacations; Club Med; Disney Destinations; Funjet Vacations; the Globus family of brands; GOGO Worldwide Vacations; Sandals; Trafalgar; Travel Impressions; and US Airways Vacations. Port Promotions, which offers commissionable shore excursions, will also participate.
As he began his opening session remarks, Wall briefly acknowledged the economic downturn, encouraging agents to “raise your hand if you’re ready for 2009 to be over.” When the group responded with a show of hands, he remarked that CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. and its agents had weathered “an economic crisis unlike anything any of us have experienced in our lifetime.”
“And as we march toward business success in 2010, we need to dig deep. We need to find positive in the negative. We need to rally together and learn to embrace these challenges in a realistic, yet optimistic way.” Despite the tough economy, “CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. have outperformed our competition,” said Wall. “We know that because our cruise line partners have told us that.”
Mark Furlan, who co-owns a CruiseOne agency in Laguna Hills, CA, with his wife Kathy, said “I think [CruiseOne’s corporate group] has done a remarkable job this past year with the recession and things happening in the economy,” adding that his agency has improved on 2008’s results.
Wall pointed out specific programs introduced within the last year or in progress to aid agents and franchise owners. The CruiseOne operational standards manual was upgraded and modernized; it now includes a process to manage franchise non-compliance issues. In addition, “we will have a new operations standards manual [for Cruises Inc.], which is on schedule to be released in November,” Wall said.
He also discussed a recent Celebrity Solstice charter, undertaken in tandem with WTH. CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. agents sold 749 passengers on that charter.
In the past year, “we’ve also hired a director of public relations [Samantha Jacobs],” said Wall, noting that 300 press articles about the two cruise groups generated more than 100 million consumer impressions. The group’s PR efforts to promote CruiseAssurance—a program allowing guests to cancel their cruise reservation with no penalty if they lose their jobs—resulted in 20 million consumer impressions alone.
Wall also cited the firms’ magazine improvements with a high-impact design; new weekly sales and marketing podcasts; new direct-mail programs; and improved e-mail marketing as other highlights.
On the technology side, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. successfully converted to Sabre’s new platform. The group also added online booking capability for Azamara Cruises. And, it’s implemented a new automatic e-mail system for the override program—so agents can see how they’re doing in achieving their goals. A new Customer Relationship Management system was also unveiled at the headquarters recently. “Whoever you speak to at [the] headquarters is going to know exactly what is going on with you,” Wall told agents.
On the training front, three seminars at sea attracted many agents. Separately, more than 120 agents took part in a new five-week boot camp, which was cited as one of the group’s most outstanding training programs. The camp, where “the sergeant doesn’t let you miss a single class,” covers business practices, sales, marketing and more. Agents who have participated in the boot camp experienced an average sales increase of over 36 percent.
CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. have also refined and upgraded the orientation training offered to new agents and owners at the group’s Fort Lauderdale headquarters; it now includes more hands-on sales training. Plus, five one-hour programs are available to the agents after they return home.
Of the revamped regional training program, Wall noted, “We’ve held three successful sessions across the country this year with over 200 agents and owners in attendance.” Most notable has been an innovative personality profile program—that helps agents adapt and relate well to clients. This resulted in an average 26 percent sales increase for participating agents.
The group has also redesigned the recruitment process and successfully launched a new recruitment site.
Wall announced the opening of the first overseas CruiseOne franchise—Gunnar Todal has opened it in Kristiansund, Norway; his wife, Addie, currently owns a CruiseOne franchise in Allentown, PA.
Overall, while 2009 was a challenging year, Wall stressed that the approach of CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. was fast, agile and aggressive—taking calculated risks as an organization. Crediting WTH for its unwavering support, Wall said, “We were able to maintain our strong industry position. Market share is seized in these challenging economic times, and I can tell you we have seized market share.”