Purchasing a cruise is easy, considering the many ways in which bookings can be made. Cruise line reservation centers and websites make researching a breeze, and confirming a booking and making payments are straightforward processes.
Planning a successful cruise, however, is another thing altogether. Cruise bookings require specific expertise and a heightened awareness of countless details, which can most effectively be managed by a knowledgeable travel agent.
As an agent, the foundation of your career success is based upon continually communicating value to your market.
Here are seven selling points you can provide to clients that underscore your value.
Valuable expertise: Agents (especially CLIA members and CLIA-certified Cruise Counsellors) offer clients valuable expertise to plan cruises. They provide sound guidance as to when it’s best to cruise in a particular region, which itineraries are best suited to a client’s interests and which lines and ships match a client’s vacation expectations.
Exclusive offers: Many agents are affiliated with franchisors, hosts and consortia. The massive buying power and organizational stability of travel networks benefit clients with exclusive promotions, value-added amenities, attractive group rates and 24-hour client support.
Insurance options: Booking directly with a cruise line gives a consumer one – and only one – choice for travel protection. Many agencies offer additional insurance options available through trusted third-party providers. Agents can help clients compare the differences between cruise line and other coverage, enabling a client to make an informed decision.
Loyalty benefits: While cruise lines offer branded loyalty programs with valuable benefits, many travel agencies offer their own loyalty programs. Working with the same agency can be an opportunity for clients to enjoy an additional layer of loyalty benefits at no additional cost.
Notifications: This is an area where travel agents are worth their weight in gold. Part of an agent’s responsibility is to notify clients of changes to their travel arrangements, such as itinerary changes, weather advisories, labor disputes and political unrest. Cruise lines notify their agency partners of developments affecting their mutual clients’ travel plans. The onus is on the agent to contact clients to pass along vital information.
Advocacy: In those rare instances when something goes wrong, agents can be an effective advocate on a client’s behalf. Resolving issues and restoring client satisfaction is something an experienced agent is skilled at facilitating, whereas a consumer might not know where to even start.
Free of charge: Many cruise-selling agents work only on commission – which comes out of the cruise line’s pocket, not the client’s. Considering the tremendous value consumers receive from working with capable and professional agents, booking by other means seems illogical.
While these seven examples represent the leading advantages of working with a travel agent, one additional benefit – dealing with actual human beings with the ability to care about their client’s vacation experience – remains the most valuable of them all.
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A version of this article appears in print in the June 2016 issue of Vacation Agent Magazine.
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