How important are travel agents to Carnival Corp. and to the cruise industry as a whole?
Critically important. I am able to see the industry from different angles as CEO of Carnival Corporation and also global chair of CLIA, but my view of our travel agent partners never waivers. Travel agents are crucial to our success as an industry and will continue to be an engine that helps drive our collective growth. They are the “matchmakers” for the cruise industry, with specialized expertise and insights into what their customers want and need in a vacation, so they are able to match them with the best cruise line and best ship within that line, regardless of occasion, destination or past experience. That’s critical to guest satisfaction, which is a key component of our ability to compete with land-based vacations.
As we all know, when we are able to make that perfect match, we create cruisers for life. And the resulting positive word of mouth is the most effective advertising we have for continuing to tell the story of cruising as the best vacation experience in the world and a great overall value. For the new-to-cruise segment, travel agents perhaps play an even greater role in helping travelers understand what modern cruising is all about and getting them to consider a cruise vacation. Travel agents are trusted advisors who can bust cruising myths, explain modern innovations, talk about new attractions and destinations, and promote the cruise experience for someone who has never seen it firsthand. That is powerful stuff.
How have you seen the cruise industry, and the role of the travel agent in it, change during your career?
Carnival started in 1972 with a single ship and the Arison family’s vision of building a new industry that would bring cruising to the masses and create the ultimate family vacations at sea. We are an industry built on trying new things, so there have been tremendous advances over the years. From that small beginning we have grown into the world’s largest cruise company with 10 global brands, 103 ships and nearly 12 million annual guests, nearly half of the cruise market. The collective efforts and innovations of our 120,000 employees and everyone who works in the industry, including travel agents, have touched millions of lives.
A big area of innovation involves transforming the total guest experience, including dining and entertainment, impeccable crew service, amazing new ship designs and smart uses of space for amenities and accommodations, along with countless exciting onshore adventures, for guests of all generations. That is why we believe cruising is not only the best vacation value, but really the best vacation, period! With this incredible evolution, the role of travel agents as a link between our guests and the ultimate cruise vacation is more important than ever. Our guests benefit greatly from knowledgeable experts who can match their vacation dreams with the right cruise for the right occasion at the right time. We believe there is a cruise out there for everyone, and we work with our travel agent partners to help find that perfect match for our guests.
What’s the top piece of advice you would offer travel advisors selling cruises?
Tell your clients what they’ve been missing! Use the cruise industry’s innovative nature as an advantage and a reason to start a conversation about why cruising is different. Take the opportunity to talk about the latest advancements with ships, amenities, activities and destinations, while also busting any misguided beliefs about modern cruising and helping people understand what a cruise vacation is all about. Look for ways to demonstrate the feeling of a vacation on the open sea, the unique experience of a great atmosphere, fine dining and entertainment, and then going to sleep in the comfort of your room and waking up to explore a new and exciting destination.