Before I give you some words of wisdom and reality on the cruise industry, I must let everyone know that I am departing on a Disney Cruise with my family next week. While I enjoy cruising, I can tell you the decision-making process is overwhelming. Score one for the travel agent—that is a good thing. An agent’s recommendation goes a long way in a crowded market. But the reality is that too many ships is also a bad thing for agents.
John McMahon with Dan Hanrahan, president and CEO, Celebrity Cruises
As I meet with many cruise executives I hear a common phrase, “consumer direct.” The conversation deepens and leads to debates about the balance of agent bookings vs. direct bookings. These cruise lines aren’t turning their back on the agency community. It all falls back to supply and demand. So here is the reality statement: The cruise inventory has outgrown the travel agency market. The travel agent channel cannot fill all the cabins. The cruise lines must expand their client base. That doesn’t mean they are turning their backs on you. Many cruise lines are doing more to support you.
For example, Celebrity Cruises was named Vacation.com’s 2010 Premium Cruise Partner of the Year for its trade support. Vacation.com’s John Lovell says the line is one of its most engaged partners, using many Vacation.com services and programs such as sponsoring regional trade meetings and offering generous co-op marketing dollars to reach out to members. In addition, to help travel agents and customers understand the revitalized Celebrity Cruises, a 10-city “Designed for You” tour began in June. Fifty travel agents in each city as well as their best customers who are new to Celebrity have participated or will participate in brand essence and Celebrity Life training sessions. Celebrity’s President and CEO Dan Hanrahan said at this year’s Vacation.com conference that travel agencies must also create demand for cruising as well as recruit more agents.
At The Travel Group, we are doing our best to motivate you as well as bring more agents into this amazing line of work. We currently have nine summer interns that we pay for working in travel agencies this summer. We have teamed up with American Express to launch the largest travel agent loyalty program in recent history. We are giving away more than $200,000 in American Express gift cards to agents who book cruises or tours with the card. One way to find out more is to visit www.winwithamex.com.
So, we all need to work on our supply and demand and if we encourage more cruising and recruit more agents, we will all be cruising into the sunset.