Last updated: 02:13 PM ET, Wed October 09 2013

Carnival Launches Travel Agent Outreach Program

Cruise | Carnival Cruise Lines | Theresa Norton Masek | June 24, 2013

Battered by negative publicity after several ship incidents, Carnival Cruise Lines is reaching out to improve its relationship with travel agents, who are in a position to help the line restore its reputation and fare levels. The relationship with the trade has been strained by several policy changes over the past year , including adjustments in commission tiers and fare codes and a reduction in marketing assistance.

The line is launching Carnival Conversations, a new agent outreach program “designed to increase dialogue and strengthen ties with travel agents,” the company said. The program includes road show events, agency visits and daily feedback opportunities on www.GoCCL.com, the company’s travel agent Internet portal.

“Many travel agents have expressed that they’re frustrated with changes we’ve made in recent years,” said Lynn Torrent, Carnival’s executive vice president of sales and guest services. “Our goal with Carnival Conversations is to do a better job of listening and responding to travel agents regularly so that we’re on top of the issues that matter to them most.”

Beginning July 1, the line will launch a marketing campaign to build awareness for the program. A road show series will kick off in New York City on July 12. The launch of the new program comes two weeks after parent company Carnival Corp. announced that former Carnival President and CEO Bob Dickinson would return as a sales and marketing consultant to advise the North American brands on distribution issues.

“Carnival Conversations is our way of showing travel agents that we truly do want to strengthen our relationship with them by opening up our lines of communication,” added Joni Rein, Carnival’s vice president of worldwide sales. “Over the last few months, we already implemented a variety of suggestions they made. Most importantly, we want travel agents to know we appreciate, need and rely on them.”

Rein acknowledged the importance of travel agents, particularly after the Carnival Triumph incident in February, during an executive panel June 21 at CLIA’s cruise3sixty conference in Vancouver. “The Carnival Triumph incident was very challenging for us,” she said, as the company was “inundated” with phone calls and emails for several weeks. “You were all so supportive of us we couldn’t have gotten through those weeks without you. We thank you for your support and patience.”

The road shows will be led by the line’s senior sales executives. Carnival Conversations also will include in-agency seminars, seminars at sea, trade shows and conferences with Carnival’s sales team. GoCCL.com will feature short daily surveys comprised of open-ended questions. Carnival then will share responses to this feedback, letting agents know what they can implement and what will need further review. There will also be a more detailed quarterly survey. Travel agents may also find Carnival’s expanded road show and webinar schedule on the site.

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