As the media continues to swirl around the Costa Concordia incident, you, as a travel agent, need to be thinking about how to protect your business. Now I am not trying to sweep what happened under the rug, but in the end you will see that this was a matter of human error. Unfortunately, humans make errors every day that cost lives. Whether we are in a train, plane, automobile or walking down the street, we are at risk. Society, systems and rules try and minimize this. My suggestion is turn this awful tragedy into a positive for you. Believe it or not, someone always benefits from negative incidences. When a hurricane hits, for example, public safety employees get overtime, construction workers find more jobs and Home Depot stock goes up because building materials fly off the shelves.
Here is your moment. The passengers who booked through a travel agent got home first. I’ve read many accounts of passengers stranded in Italy not able to make it home fast enough. I’ve also read a number of stories of passengers praising their travel agent for having their back and guiding them through the journey home. Many in the media have picked up on this and numerous positive travel agent stories have been published. So go ahead and add this unique selling point to your marketing material and sales pitch. Don’t worry, you won’t scare them away from traveling; they are going to go anyway. Remind them that you, the travel agent, always have their back—no matter what happens.
The next issue is the relationship between cruise lines and agents. I am going to help you out with this one. Many agents are suspect of the cruise lines and their ability to drive direct bookings. For the record, I support the cruise line industry on the multiple-channel approach. If you can’t fill their ships they will look elsewhere because, as they say, “It’s business.” However, I do challenge the cruise lines to weigh their consumer-direct cancellations over the fear of cruising vs. their agent-channel cancellations. Having you as an advocate and a voice of reason more than likely protected those reservations.
We are on a mission to find out, and as the industry’s voice Travel Agent magazine will raise that question, find the answer and help bridge that gap and drive home the value of you as a channel the cruise lines can count on in good times and bad.