|Here's a screen capture from the new Espresso global reservations system.|
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. has introduced a preview of its new Espresso global reservation system, designed for travel agents selling Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Pullmantur, Azamara Club Cruises and CDF Croisieres de France. The system will officially launch in March 2015.
The company touts Espresso as a faster, powerful and intuitive reservation system that will assist travel agent partners in selling more cruises, earning more commission and growing their businesses.
While Espresso will go live for agent bookings in March, the existing CruiseMatch reservation system will also continue to operate concurrently for some time -- likely three to four months -- to allow travel partners to take the training and feel comfortable with the new system.
Dondra Ritzenthaler, senior vice president of sales, Celebrity Cruises, said the goal is to reach and train more than 20,000 travel agents; she described the system as easy to learn and highly intuitive in how it assists agents.
Starting in February, the three major U.S. brands will hit the road and provide training seminars to travel agent partners across the U.S. and Canada. To prepare for the transition from CruiseMatch to the Espresso reservation system, travel agents are being encouraged by the cruise company to register online at www.bookespresso.com for one of the training seminars.
A new three-minute video at that site will also assist agents in seeing what Espresso is all about.
Two four-hour, in-person training sessions will be held in six major cities now through March including the South Florida metropolitan area, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, New York City and Toronto. There is zero financial cost to agents.
There also will be 90-minute webinars, which agents can take live, or watch later in a recorded mode. BDMs and DSMs will also be doing in-office training for agents.
The line has a new computer-based training tool that simulates Espresso for agents at www.espressocbt.com. That site also has a .pdf manual for Espresso.
|Espresso will ultimately replace Cruise Match as the reservations system for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.'s multiple brands.|
“Royal Caribbean’s relationship with travel agents has always been a top priority and this is another demonstration of our commitment to making our brands the easiest in the industry to do business with,” said Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales, trade support and service for Royal Caribbean International.
“These new tools deliver an easier and more intuitive booking experience for our valued travel partners," Freed said, noting that the brands were eager to see how a smarter, more dynamic platform will enhance the agencies' business results.
Freed described the new system as "strong, powerful and filled with energy."
Ritzenthaler stressed: “The new Espresso will harness the latest technology to deliver the industry’s most advanced booking system....It will help our travel agents focus more on their customers than looking at the computer screen."
A new simplified, intuitive, and modern user interface dramatically reduces the number of clicks to make a reservation – from seven to five. Ritzenthaler also said that Espresso assembles the most important and frequently used functions up front: "All inventory is centralized and travel agents can select up to four stateroom categories at once for quick and easy comparison."
|Espresso's new features are designed to save time for travel advisors.|
Comparison Views of Itineraries
Espresso also provides side-by-side comparison views of selected itineraries to help travel agents identify the best possible cruise for their clients.
Once submitted, the new reservation system’s search engine finds the best available price and applicable promotional offers to deliver the best vacation options for travel agents to present to their clients.
“We listened to our travel partners and custom designed the new Espresso reservation system based on their feedback to build a powerful and intuitive tool,” said Ellen Bettridge, vice president of sales and marketing, Azamara Club Cruises.
She noted that the new system will allow travel agents to focus more on clients than on their screens and "significantly helps improve the experience when they connect with clients.”
|Espresso can provide side-by-side itineraries and options that simplify the process and avoid searching from screen to screen.|
Comparison of Group & Individual Pricing
Perhaps most welcome to agents? The new reservations system has the ability to give a side-by-side view of groups and individual inventory at point of sale -- or a single view -- rather than the agent constantly switching from page to page.
Travel agents can use single view to compare individual pricing against their reserved group space.
That allows advisors to determine the best value and price for their clients, without the hassle of switching back and forth between individual and group bookings.
The executives said that enhancement will help the advisor identify the best deal -- saving time that can be better used for selling more and servicing clients.
A new predictive search function also will help travel agents find an existing reservation from a single identifier, also saving time when servicing a client’s booking.
Espresso will identify past guests and display a customer’s history, such as recent promotions sent to them, last cruise taken, destination and accommodation preferences and any other interests that has been shared.
Then, it will automatically populate the information and preferences when making a new reservation.
Tablet Friendly & Interactive Deck Plans
One of the biggest enhancements? "Espresso is optimized for tablet devices," stressed Bettridge. So agents can engage clients wherever they are -- at their desks or on-the-go at the coffee shops.
The executives said that research with travel partners helped them decide about the tablet enhancements. They said tablets are easy to transport. They're also the latest trend, one that appeals strongly to Millenials.
The agent can show the Millennial client various staterooms on the tablet -- communicating with them in exactly the way they want to be engaged. The tablet-ready system is also designed for the next generation of travel agents, officials said.
Interactive deck plans allow travel agents the freedom to engage their clients wherever they are. The new deck plans will highlight best available staterooms and filtered selections, like available connecting rooms, closest to and accessible staterooms.
Agents will be able to view and select multiple staterooms simply by clicking on them. Stateroom details, including photos and the stateroom layout, are available in the same place.
The lines said the new, often intuitive features added in the new system were specifically mentioned by travel agents in research, focus groups and to BDMs, so the new system was built for the trade based on their suggestions.
Travel agents also can get fast support in the way that’s most convenient for the way they do business individually. Automation Support consultants will be available via an integrated “live chat” or “request a call” feature. Or, the agent, if he or she prefers, can contact his or her business development manager.
Ritzenthaler said that agents still will be able to get help in the way they choose; they don't need to use the automation support if they prefer one-on-one assistance via phone, email or in person.
In a briefing by the three sales executives late last week, trade media also learned the following:
- At this point, the lines are strongly encouraging agents to sign up for training and noted that 1,000 agents had signed up for one of the upcoming webinars.
- They expect 2,500 or so agents to participate in each webinar.
- The executives do not see the need for a promotion or incentive to get agents to register for training, noting that they had looked at that option, but that agents have been asking for these features for some time -- so they believe most agents will be eager to learn the system as it will save them time and free them up to do more selling and servicing of clients.
- The company did not specify the cost of the system, but Ritzenthaler said "it is expensive." In 2012, the company went on record saying that the travel agent partnership was its core distribution system and it would invest $100 million on trade technology updates for five years (starting in 2012).
Again, the websites to check out are www.bookespresso.com for training session sign-ups and a short video and www.espressocbt.com for the tool that simulates the new system prior to its March launch and a .pdf training manual to download.