Cruise lines don’t just want to have a relationship with the travel agency community – they need the relationship.
There are solid business reasons cruise lines depend heavily on agents, a panel of cruise line executives told some 1,200 agents at CLIA’s recent cruise3sixty conference in Fort Lauderdale last week.
Cruise-selling agents can reach consumers and advocate for cruising in ways the lines can’t, the panel said.
The executives also discussed the minimal impact of the Costa Concordia and a surge in pent-up demand. (See sidebar.)
Following are highlights.
Successful because of you
“I could not imagine a cruise industry without travel agents. It shouldn’t even be a subject we need to discuss, because it just doesn’t make sense. You are the one who makes it all work. Cruise lines are successful because of your brand. Cruise executives are successful because of you. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like if we all did direct business and we didn’t have our travel agent support. We need your business; we need your pied piper support.” – Rick Sasso, president and CEO of MSC Cruises (USA) Inc.
Consumers want agents
“Oftentimes analysts say to us as cruise line presidents and CEOs, ‘Why don’t you get rid of the travel agencies?’ There are three major reasons. One, the consumer wants you. Two, it’s terrific that we have over 100,000 people out there telling our story. We could never do that. And three, you’ve been successful for so many years; you’ve built up this client base and you’ve given us an annuity. So not only are there emotional reasons, because we’re attached to you, there are really solid business reasons for us to have the relationship that we do with you.” – Dan Hanrahan, president & CEO, Celebrity Cruises
Importance of a ‘trusted person’
“Our sales focus is on the travel agent community. We have a very upscale product. People want consulting on this kind of product. We have a clientele that often don’t have time to do research, so the travel counselor is absolutely important to us. The consumer wants to find a trusted person to invest $10,000 or $15,000 with. Buying a hotel online or rental car online is different, but for this kind of purchase a travel counselor is absolutely vital.” – Rudi Schreiner, president & CEO, AMAWATERWAYS
Agents articulate unique features
“As a very boutique yachting experience, we’re not a marketing-driven product that has all kinds of marketing spend available. We depend on travel agents out in the marketplace articulating unique features and benefits of the yachting experience. It absolutely is the way we find and develop new guests.” – Robert Lepisto, president, SeaDream Yacht Club