Inside CLIA Cruise360
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) held its annual Cruise360 travel agent conference June 1-6 in Vancouver, hosting executive panels, speeches, workshops, ship inspections and even a party or two. Attendance exceeded 1,300, of which 650 participants were travel agents.
One of the first cruise line announcements made at the conference directly impacts at-home travel agents – Norwegian Cruise Line has dedicated a sales team to work with home-based travel agents under the direction of company sales veteran Clark Reber.
The new Independent Travel Professional (ITP) Channel is part of the line’s Partners First program launched a number of years ago to make it easier for agents to promote and sell Norwegian cruises.
Norwegian President and COO Andy Stuart noted that the home-based segment can be difficult to support because it’s not easy to track down individual, independent agents. Host agencies have different ways they want cruise lines to reach out to their agents – some encourage direct contact while others prefer suppliers to work through the host agency headquarters.
The ITP program is customizing communication and technology to the home-based segment “instead of having a one-size-fits-all program,” Stuart said.
That includes a secondary phone field – if supported by the host agency – which allows the line to track individual agent sales. The ITP also will include symposiums at sea, a monthly newsletter, and exclusive webinars. The line also is creating an ITP advisory board. “We are working closely with the hosts” to offer “the same level of one-on-one support” that major storefront agencies have traditionally received, Stuart said. “We want to create the most engaged, responsive and empowered sales team in the business.” Initial reaction from top host agency executives is that the ITP program “has the potential to be game-changing,” Stuart said.
The ITP team also is reaching out to what Reber called “staunch soloists,” who have long operated independently without a host agency. “Our message is ‘raise your hand.’ We want to work with you,” he said.
For more information, email email@example.com or join the Partners First Facebook page at www. facebook.com/partnersfirst.
Another line, Windstar Cruises, also stepped up its outreach to the agent community with Star Promise, an initiative that includes a groups program, fam trip and an enhanced educational program. “Travel agents are at the center of our business,” said Joe Duckett, the line’s vice president of sales and marketing. “Our new Star Promise program is about recognizing and thanking our travel agent ‘stars,’ educating agents new to Windstar, and delivering the programs and service both need to be successful.”
The Star Groups Program offers bonus commissions, tour conductor credits with as few as five staterooms booked, savings and other amenities. There are two levels of benefits, depending on the group date selected.
The Star Group Dates offer a 5 percent fare discount, a tour conductor (TC) berth for nine guests booked, $100 shipboard credit per person, and a complimentary cocktail party with hors d’oeuvres for a minimum of 18 guests. At this time, the groups program can be applied to 259 cruise departure dates.
The Star Advantage Group Dates include a 10 percent discount, one TC for nine guests booked, $100 per person onboard credit, cocktail party with hors d’oeuvres for 18-plus guests minimum, and a $100-per-person travel agent bonus commission. A TC credit has to be earned for the bonus commission to be paid. There are 164 eligible cruise departures in all destinations.
The new Star FAM program includes select dates through 2016; agents just pay the non-discountable part of the fare, gratuities, port charges and taxes. Windstar also recently enhanced its Star Specialist travel agent education program. For more information, visit www.windstarcruises.com/starpromise.
Save the Date: It’s not too early register for the 2017 CLIA Cruise360 conference. It’s scheduled for April 18-24 in Fort Lauderdale. Visit www.cruise360.org.
CLIA honored two cruise executives, a Florida travel agency and an individual agent from Las Vegas with the 2016 Cruise Industry Hall of Fame awards. Winners were nominated and voted on by CLIA members and announced at a gala banquet during the Cruise360 conference.
Lifetime Achievement Award Winners were Rudi Schreiner, president and co-owner of AmaWaterways, and Bill Smith, vice president of cruise sales and performance management for Virtuoso, the luxury travel agency consortium.
Schreiner is a river cruise pioneer who introduced European river cruising in the U.S. and helped the segment grow into one of the most popular forms of travel around the world. He’s always been a staunch supporter of travel agents, as is his wife and cofounder of AmaWaterways, Kristin Karst.
Smith has worked in the travel industry for more than 44 years and was scheduled to retire on July1. Through the decades, he worked for a number of cruise companies, starting with Sitmar Cruises in 1984, and then holding senior executive positions at Princess, Costa, Silversea and Crystal.
Cruises & Tours Unlimited in Jacksonville, Fla., was named the 2016 Travel Agency Innovator Award Winner. The company is owned by Chad Burt and Steve Muraca, who also operate the host agency OutsideAgents.com.
CLIA said Cruises & Tours Unlimited received numerous nominations from employees who praised the agency’s training, back-office support, marketing tools and excellent customer service.
The Rising Star Award Winner was Christine Brown, manager of Expedia Cruise Ship Centers Summerlin in Las Vegas. Brown joined the agency less than three years ago with no book of business and dedicated herself to the industry, earning her ACC and promoting cruising in the community. Within two years, she was promoted to cruise sales manager.
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A version of this article appears in print in the June 2016 issue of Agent@Home Magazine.
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