Perhaps no line has shown more improvement in recent years in its trade programs than Royal Caribbean International. This month, the line will celebrate Travel Agent Appreciation Month by introducing new fam weekends and enhancements to the line's University of Wow as well as new features on e-Connect.
Talking to reporters at cruise3sixty in Fort Lauderdale, Vicki Freed,
Royal Caribbean's senior vice president of sales, support and trade
services, said the new enhancements will empower travel agents and
generate more sales. For example, new e-Connect enhancements will help
agents create highly interactive and personalized eQuotes, which now
will include full travel agency details and logos; dynamic pricing; the
ability of clients to send the offer to friends; and single, triple and
quad pricing in a professional design. Visit www.cruisingpower.com for details.
New fam weekends across the country also will bring agents to embarkation ports to meet with executives, learn more about the cruise line and tour Royal Caribbean's ships. A nominal participation fee will cover the cost of transportation, lodging and most meals during the weekend.
Agents will also be able to explore a city for pre-and post-cruise potential. Travel agents will earn two CLIA credits upon completion of a fam weekend or up to 40 CLIA credits and 10 Travel Institute Credits for a Seminar at Sea.
This month, the line also will launch a new consumer radio program, "Why Not Talk Cruise with Ken Muskat," the line's vice president of sales. The first show will be April 10 at 2 p.m. Eastern time or 11 p.m. Pacific time on VoiceAmerica.com.
The radio program— expected to feature Royal Caribbean executives, travel agents, industry partners and media experts— is designed to drive traffic to the trade. Shows will stress the benefits of using travel agents.
Starting earlier this year, Royal Caribbean said it would begin calling on all agency partners, including agents affiliated with host agencies and home-based travel agents. Freed says that agents may register at www.cruisingpower.com to assure that the line knows about them so they can receive sales support.
The line is also offering several travel agent appreciation promotions in April including travel agent rates of 25 percent off and two additional Group Amenities Plus points on many itineraries from September 2009 onward. New Webinars are helping agents not only learn about brand attributes and product information but also about sales tips and techniques.
Royal Caribbean's sizable trade initiatives appear to be generating concrete results in the trade community. Freed announced that a 2009 Gallup survey of travel agents who rated major cruise lines showed a much improved and, in many cases, an industry-leading rating for Royal Caribbean.
For example, when looking at how well agents like working with particular cruise lines and whether the line is easy to do business with, Freed said Royal Caribbean now ranks in first place. In terms of having knowledgeable and helpful field sales personnel, Royal Caribbean has shown a three-point lead year-over-year, said Freed, and "we now lead in this category."
And in the one category agents had greatly criticized in the past— the way the line handles group bookings— Freed said the line improved by 13 points and now leads in the category. "This one we're particularly proud of," she emphasized. Through agent suggestions, advisory board feedback and the line's own efforts, Royal Caribbean recently introduced two different group policies (deposit and no deposit) that are agent friendly.
Freed was unable to reveal the other specific lines from the Gallup poll data, which she characterized as proprietary research provided to the lines for a fee. But she showed reporters the soaring line representing Royal Caribbean on the charts and how it surpassed the lines of other "unnamed" cruise operators.
In other news, Royal Caribbean is re-launching www.oasisoftheseas.com with a new series of Webisodes about the making of the ship. In addition, the revamped site will feature a weekly "Chairman's Blog," a personal blog by Richard Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Royal Caribbean's parent company.
Agents and media attending cruise3sixty also attended a spectacular reception showcasing the Oasis of the Seas Aqua Theater Experience. During that program, Adam Goldstein, Royal Caribbean International's president and CEO, inducted more than 900 travel agents as ambassadors of "The Nation of Why Not." From Freed's perspective, "we do believe [agents] are the ambassadors because they are the gateway to the consumer's vacation." Agents were viewed attending the many conference events wearing their Why Not tee-shirts.
What's to come? Free said one new Royal Caribbean
program not yet announced is an individual incentive award program. The
technology to implement the program will be ready in May and more
details will be revealed at that point. Essentially, though, Royal
Caribbean plans to
offer eight different incentive cruise certificates, which travel agents may sell to companies, associations, small businesses and any type of organization that wants to buy an award certificate.
said the incentive award will be packaged to include the total price of
the cruise locked in, based on length of cruise and cabin category;
noncomissionable fees and gratuities will be built in. "So when they
are giving the award certificate to someone else, it is
truly an all inclusive award," Freed said