3Qs for Cruise Month: Geraldine Ree, Expedia CruiseShipCenters

Geraldine Ree, Godmother of Viking Eistla, aboard the river cruise ship at the christening ceremony.

In honor of National Plan a Cruise Month, TMR is interviewing executives from across the travel industry.

Today's interview is with Geraldine Ree,  Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Expedia CruiseShipCenters.

What advice would you give travel agents selling cruises for 2016?
The U.S. economy is strong, which is great news for travel agents. We know people are cruising again so it’s up to agents to let those travelers know why they should book with YOU. What added value will you provide for them? How will you help to not just book their vacation, but make it truly spectacular? At Expedia CruiseShipCenters we really encourage our agents to be proactive in reaching out to their customers and prospects to continuously build those relationships and keep their services top of mind. Wave season provides an abundance of opportunities to do just that.

My advice to any agent would be to take the time to understand the pre-Wave and Wave offers from cruise lines as soon as they come out so you can make recommendations immediately to your clients. You’ll not only be able to provide them with great value, but also showcase your expertise and knowledge on what each cruise line provides. Really use your skills to “know your customer” so you can match customers to the right cruise.  That’s what differentiates you from your competition.

What do you think cruise lines and travel agents might better understand about working together?
The strong partnerships Expedia CruiseShipCenters has developed with our preferred cruise line partners over the past 28 years is really a result of our organization-wide focus on supporting our partners who support us, and the travel agent community at large. When cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, or Norwegian provide exclusive offers that customers can only get by booking through us, our sales with those lines increase substantially as a result. Our agents get bookings and in turn, we’re helping our preferred partners reach cruisers that they would not have had access to before through the recommendation of a trusted professional. It’s a win-win for both sides.

What will you be doing differently in 2016?
One of the things Expedia CruiseShipCenters really excels at is booking first-time cruisers and turning them into repeat clients who come back to us again and again. When our agents consistently deliver Our Promise during every interaction with a customer, we know they’ll come back to us because they’ve built that relationship. In 2016 we’ll continue focusing on those new cruisers as well as the growing multi-generational cruise market with a brand new promotion we’ll be launching in 2016 that we’re very excited about.

Internally, our biggest focus next year will be on giving our agents reasons to proactively call their clients. We’ll be implementing some really innovative uses of technology to help our agents segment their databases and reach out to contacts at the time they’re most likely to book. We’re always on the lookout for ways to leverage technology to provide even better service to our customers so we’ll continue searching for opportunities to do that through 2016.

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