How Important Is Training to Agent Success? Vital, Cruise Lines Say

by Daniel McCarthy
How Important Is Training to Agent Success? Vital, Cruise Lines Say

 Photo: SeeShootEatRepeat/

This article is from TMR's second Ocean Cruise Report Card for Travel Agents. The report, which was released this week, is the third in a series of supplier policy report cards designed as a useful resource for travel professionals. It gives agents the most up-to-date trade policies of ocean lines and is available here.

With an increasingly crowded market in ocean cruises, it’s more important than ever for travel agents to get to know ships and itineraries, and learn how to sell them. That’s why almost all ocean cruise lines are upping their travel agent training options for 2018.

“Travel agents are our most valued partners, and providing them with the right tools as well as the best training is a very important part of our commitment to their success,” said Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales, trade support, and service for Royal Caribbean International.

This year, Royal Caribbean University, the cruise line’s travel agent training portal, was relaunched with a new interactive and mobile-friendly program. According to Freed, the portal was specifically redesigned “to be robust and informative while also fun and engaging to serve up education in an impactful way that complements how learning has evolved."

After graduating the bachelor and master levels of Royal Caribbean University, agents will be eligible to receive a variety of rewards such as CLIA credits, a Passport to Savings booklet, onboard credit, complimentary VOOM WiFi, and opportunities to attend Seminars at Sea and inaugural sailings.

Also this year, MSC Cruises launched its new MSC Academy, which Senior Vice President of Sales Joe Jiffo said, “allows us to educate all travel agents on MSC Cruises’ offerings and teach them how to effectively merchandise the brand.”

The new program takes agents through training courses, quizzes, and checkpoints that are all designed to get agents up-to-speed on what MSC is offering.

The program offers videos, voiceovers and an audio pronunciation guide to give agents insight into MSC’s brand history, sailing destinations, the MSC Voyagers Club, onboard experiences and more. The academy also offers a forum for all travel agents to pool notes and resources, creating an area to share knowledge with others in the industry.

For home-based agents, MSC is also offering one-on-one time with its business development manager team.

“Travel agents stand to gain from the rapid growth of the cruise industry, with more product than ever before being introduced to the market on an annual basis,” Jiffo said. “With new product comes new updates and information, and it’s vital for agents to be properly trained and kept up-to-date in order to effectively grow their businesses by offering the right product to their clients.”

Also new this year is Norwegian Cruise Line’s NCLU, which was launched just a few months ago. The new program, which is mobile- and tablet-friendly, allows travel agents to earn four different levels of certification — Associate, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Ph.D. — depending on courses taken. More than 20 electives, including opportunities to earn destination expert status, are available.

“The reception from travel partners has been overwhelmingly positive,” Senior Vice President of Sales Camille Olivere told Travel Market Report. “The new platform is helping us better serve our agent community with user-friendly, concise courses that feature meaningful content that help our partners grow their businesses.”

Also new with NCLU is the NCLU Student Union, a private Facebook group exclusively for agents enrolled in NCLU. “We've seen engagement amongst our community skyrocket, with many partners actively participating in discussions of NCLU content on a daily basis,” Olivere added.

Carnival Cruise Line also has training news for 2018 — a brand new that debuted in November 2017. The website now has an updated design based on travel agent feedback, including an improved navigation bar.

“Agents have really embraced the new We’ve seen nearly double the users and usage since we launched our completely redesigned travel agent portal last November,” Adolfo Perez, Carnival Cruise Line's vice president of sales and trade marketing, told Travel Market Report. 

According to Perez, the “redesign was a true collaboration between our teams and our valued travel agent partners,” including interviews with partners and input from thousands of agents. 

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The professional travel advisor’s job is to equip the traveler with the necessary information to enable a good decision that will reflect that person’s own risk tolerance.
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