Cruise Fams Have Never Been More Important: Part One

by Richard D’Ambrosio
Cruise Fams Have Never Been More Important: Part One

Photo: cruisecritic

New ships are christened every year, and older ships are being overhauled and reintroduced to appeal to new target markets. Dining options and itineraries change regularly and seasonally. It’s a lot to keep up with, and consumers need travel agents intimately educated in the details as they consider booking a cruise.

To become knowledgeable, thousands of agents rely every year on cruise fams, where they can experience firsthand the ships, staterooms and ports their clients might want to book.

“Cruise lines do change. You may be selling an outdated concept if you haven’t gone on board in a while,” said Craig Satterfield, a cruise expert and author of “Confessions from the Cruise Scholar,” a book about his 35 years selling cruise travel. “You may be missing benefits, or selling benefits that don’t exist anymore.” Satterfield is a CLIA elite cruise counselor with Sure Cruise and Cruise Travel Outlet, Las Vegas.

“It’s hard to learn all of the differences,” agreed Vicki Tomasino, regional vice president for Carnival’s Western U.S. sales, who heads up CCL’s travel agent fam program. “All the cruise lines do things differently, from waterslides and sports parks, to the theaters, alternative restaurants. We encourage agents to immerse themselves in the product.”

But attending cruise fams can be extremely expensive. Agents have to pick up the cost of airfare, and they have to be away from their offices for three to eight days, which means not taking customer calls and booking revenue-producing client trips.

“Cruise fams are not a freebie anymore. They’re a business trip,” Satterfield said.

As a result, the cruise fam landscape has changed, and both agents and cruise lines are adapting to ways to continue educating agents, while still allowing agents to manage their customers.

Cruise lines provide multiple streams for educating agents
Carnival Cruise Lines is a perfect example of how the industry has evolved to accommodate the changing landscape. Primarily because airlines no longer have liberal free or discounted agent ticket policies, most agents educate themselves on Carnival via ship inspections. “The days of free or discounted agent fares are long gone, unfortunately,” Tomasino said.

Ship inspections typically include lunch and a tour, for which agents register at the events page on the GoCCL.com agent website. Some agents are invited directly by a Carnival business development manager.

As a result, “now, the agents who tend to have the most intimate knowledge of a particular cruise line are those within a five- or six-hour drive of a port city,” Tomasino said. Carnival hosts ship inspection events every month in Florida, Galveston, New York, Los Angeles and Seattle. The downside for Carnival is that “because we don’t charge for ship inspections, and it’s a drive market” the rate of no-shows runs as high as 40% to 50%.

The company also recently relaunched short weekend ship inspections tied to training. “We just did our first one in New Orleans this year in March,” said Tomasino, hosting 125 agents. The cruise line negotiated a group rate at a New Orleans hotel for Friday arrival, and Saturday and Sunday ship tours.

The event was such a success, Tomasino said, that Carnival is looking to begin scheduling similar events for 2017, in either Orlando, Miami, Galveston or Los Angeles.

  5
  0
Tip of the Day
Daily Top List

Most Useful Twitter Accounts for Travel Agents

1. AskTSA

2. FlightRadar24

3. Department of State

4. CLIA Global

5. ASTA

Source: TMR

TMR THIS WEEK
http://services.travelsavers.com/AMGService.svc/REST/GetImage?ImageID=dd7f092d-7dff-e711-80eb-782bcb667b27

What's Their 'Why'? Connect Your Clients to Their Passion for Travel

The unique reasons that inspire people to travel are the foundation of travel fulfillment, and more sales for travel agents.

TMR Recommendations
Top Stories
Bomb Cyclone Delay Raises Issue of Clients' Rights When Service Goes Awry
Bomb Cyclone Delay Raises Issue of Clients' Rights When Service Goes Awry

An airport incident between passengers and a Canadian airline in Boston during the “bomb cyclone” highlights the tensions that can rise when there are significant delays.

Multi-Trip Travel Insurance Could Cost Less, But Has Low Awareness
Multi-Trip Travel Insurance Could Cost Less, But Has Low Awareness

This lesser known option has yet to catch on because most travelers aren’t aware of it, and agents are more inclined to sell single-trip policies.

What Do the New Facebook Rules Mean for Travel Agents?
What Do the New Facebook Rules Mean for Travel Agents?

Changes announced this week by Facebook’s CEO may lead to less value for businesses trying to reach customers through unpaid content on the social media platform.

Lonely Planet’s Top Places for Solo Travel Includes Adventure and Foodie Destinations
Lonely Planet’s Top Places for Solo Travel Includes Adventure and Foodie Destinations

The travel guide’s list includes 10 cities from around the world that will convince even the most uneasy single traveler that it’s time to start exploring solo.

Headquarters Happenings: After a Successful 2017, Travel Leaders Looks to a Stronger 2018
Headquarters Happenings: After a Successful 2017, Travel Leaders Looks to a Stronger 2018

Synergies from 2017 merger, enhanced travel agent tools, and expanded luxury offerings propel the company into the new year.

Travel Agents Sail into Wave Season
Travel Agents Sail into Wave Season

Travel professionals are taking new approaches to their customers, their marketing and their business processes in 2018.

News Briefs
Advertiser's Voice
Advertiser's Voice: Scenic Cruises