|Left to right: Edie Bornstein of Azamara Club Cruises; Camille Olivere of Norwegian Cruise Line; Mark Kammerer of Holland America Line; Vicki Freed of Royal Caribbean International; Jan Swartz of Princess Cruises // All photos by Susan J. Young|
Revenue is the name of the game, said agents attending cruise3sixty in Port Everglades a few days ago. Most attended the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) conference to glean more cruise product knowledge and take back tips on sales, marketing, branding, customer service and operations.
The goal? Most said they wanted to "up their game."
For example, Shari Kavalin, leisure travel planner, Your Smart Vacation, Lighthouse Point, FL, said cruise3sixty was far more than just about cruising.
Kavalin took Luxury Travel Specialist (LCS) classes, Sabre technical training and destination educational training.
“Echoing the theme of ‘Be All That You Can Be,’ there was plenty to help you be a better travel pro,” she told Travel Agent.
In a Saturday General Session program, agent attendees heard directly from some of the oceangoing cruise industry’s top sales and marketing executives. Here's a look at a few of their tips of the trade.
Think Out… A Long Way Out:
Look at world events, historical milestones, commemorations and major festivals. What’s coming up next year or even the following year or two? That’s an agent opportunity waiting to happen, according to Edie Bornstein, senior vice president of sales, Azamara Club Cruises (www.azamaraclubcruises.com).
She cited a Titanic commemoration/memorial cruise charter put together last month as one unusual idea that was concocted far out; it was also something not every agent was doing.
“You have to think far out and you have to think ahead,” Bornstein said. She also stressed that it's critical to create an opportunity that no one else is doing, something your peers haven’t even yet dreamed about.
When it’s not on their radar, let it be on yours.
|Mark Kammerer of Holland America Line|
Spin Little Groups into Big Ones
Ever go on a cruise, host a small group of clients, and then see a much larger group onboard and, annoyingly ask yourself: “Why can’t I get a group that size?”
Mark Kammerer, senior vice president, marketing and North American sales, Holland America Line (www.hollandamerica.com) says the answer is simple. Most huge groups started out as a small group, one that probably took several years to develop.
One huge group of Philadelphia Phillies fans who sail on Holland America “started [years ago] out of a discussion an agent had with a friend who knew a star player," Kammerer said. "It started from a series of conversations about a known figure. They needed a rainmaker...needed someone to organize the group around.”
He says at first it was only a group of 25 people, then 50, then 100 “and then," he quipped, “it became the large group that annoys your group.”
But it took five years to build. Be patient, he says, and be prepared to spend time marketing and selling 12 months of the year to develop that type of super group.
In another vein, tap into social networking or blogs, as sometimes groups happen naturally when people find others with common interests, according to Jan Swartz, executive vice president, sales, marketing and customer service, Princess Cruises (www.princess.com) and Cunard Line (www.cunard.com).
Swartz says that Princess asked passengers to share their own stories online about what motivated them to cruise. The result was a hilarious story about a group of ladies who call themselves "princesses."
“They come together [to cruise] as friends, some of whom live across the country,” according to Swartz. But what's most interesting is that other consumers began to respond to the ladies’ posts, saying: “You guys look like you’re having fun. When are you going as I’d like to come too?”
Swartz’s view? “Sometimes it’s just a spirit of camauraderie ignited by a common interest…like a hurricane it picks up speed and momentum over time.”
|Vicki Freed of Royal Caribbean International|
Create a Strong Bond with the Customer
Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales, Royal Caribbean International (www.cruisingpower.com) told cruise3sixty attendees that four of five clients who book through a travel agent use a different agent to book their next cruise.
Why? It’s not necessarily that the customer didn’t like their agent or that the customer felt they received bad service, it’s just that providing good service isn’t enough.
“The consumer did not feel bonded to the first travel agent they had,” Freed stressed. Set yourself apart. Stay in touch. Build a relationship. Make a connection.
Do it now, or risk the client jumping ship. Also, fostering a bond creates something else quite valuable – referrals.
Explore Underserved Markets
Where can an enterprising agent make a buck? Camille Olivere, senior vice president of sales, Americas, Norwegian Cruise Line (www.ncl.com) has one tip: Go after company sales kick-offs.
“What a great untapped market,” Olivere stressed. She said people don’t think about a cruise for a sales kick-off. “It never occurs to corporate meeting planners,” she said, noting that even smaller companies have a budget for sales kick-offs each year.
So agents are often just tapping into any already-budgeted event, not asking the firm to create a new one and find funding. Sales kick-off meetings are imperative for a company's revenue goals. They're used to motivate staffers, reinforce sales objectives, train employees and help meet operational revenue goals.
Ships have great facilities for meetings. Costs can be comparable or even less at sea. Plus,when meetings are held on a day at sea, employees aren't blowing off meetings for a day at the beach or sightseeing.
Agents say they benefitted from such tips as those offered above.
Kavalin's overall view of the conference?: “The cruise lines' support of travel agents is refreshing and I feel will help sustain a happy marriage.”
Keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for further updates from cruise3sixty.