Fatima DaSilva, newest member of the Canadian team
As a Canadian travel agent, you’ve likely seen and heard a lot about Norwegian Cruise Line in the past couple of years. It was April, 2015 when the fast-growing company, having singled out this country as a major growth market, announced a doubling of its trade-focused sales force, with long-time Carnival sales executive Dana Gain at the helm.
Nearly two years later, Open Jaw asked Gain if the increased commitment is delivering dividends.
“We are delighted with the results. The team has evolved into a truly cohesive group of dedicated and committed sales professionals who are always at the ready to support each other. We are aligned and laser-focused on our goal to grow the business in Canada, and everyone on the team is working toward that goal with a dedication that continues to surprise and amaze me.”
Sales, travel agent partnership is working
At Norwegian's December 2016 sales meeting, the entire Canadian team was recognized for their achievements. Alexandre Bergeron, Mary Jo Cutaia and Ian Smyth received the Outstanding Achievement award for exceeding goal in 4 consecutive quarters. Ramon Jacinto and Sabrina Greca tied for the highest sales award, Best of the Best in the Canada region.
"It's rare an entire region all comes home with awards, and it's a real testament to their spirit, dedication and hard work," Gain said.
The Canadian sales boss says she believes agents appreciate the commitment as well.
“I think the authenticity behind what we’re trying to do is resonating. We respond quickly. We listen carefully. We acknowledge and take responsibility for our mistakes. And we do everything possible to make it right -- every time. Serving our travel partners is the cornerstone of what we’re doing. It’s very much a point of pride for us.”
Of course the proof of success in the travel business is in the bookings. Gain says that part is working out too.
Addressing the elephant in the room
“Without a doubt our Canadian business is growing. 2016 started out as a very scary year as we watched the Canadian dollar tumble. But since I had promised Andy Stuart back in 2015 that currency was not going to be a problem (laughter), we had no alternative but to get ahead of it.
That’s when we decided to take a risk by developing our very own, Canada-specific promotion.”
The promotion – which continues today – is ‘Canada at Par,’ which gives price-conscious cruisers the ability to book select cruises with Canadian dollars at par with U.S. dollar pricing. Gain says it was a success right out of the gate.
“Timing is everything. We managed to pivot quickly and get Canada at Par into the marketplace in 2016 while consumers were still very much in shock. Being able to quickly identify the problem and a solution clearly helped. We were able to develop an offer that spoke directly – and quickly – to the single biggest concern of Canadian consumers.”
Gain says the combination of ‘Canada at Par’ with another promotion dubbed ‘Free at Sea’ is effectively blanketing Norwegian’s Canadian target market
“Our Free at Sea promotion continues to attract the value-driven consumer, one who doesn’t mind paying a little more for substantial added value. Canada at Par, by contrast, speaks directly to the price-driven consumer, one who still wishes to go on vacation despite the currency fluctuations but who does not need all the extras. For this group the value is found in the reduced price.”
Meeting cruise sellers on their turf
Gain joined Norwegian as National Director, Sales – Canada backed by an MBA and more than a decade of experience at Carnival Cruise Line, where she rose to Director of Sales, International. Her key goal in leading Norwegian’s expanded sales team was ensuring it efficiently meets agent needs.
“One of the first things we did was to recalibrate each of the territories so we could maximize the team’s availability and access to the trade. The first time was in May of 2015. We went through the process a second time last fall after hiring a second person to support Western Canada. I’m confident that the territories are now properly balanced, making it easier to support our trade partners.
We’ve increased our exposure at industry events so that we can be more accessible to our partners, which is especially important to agents who are home-based or more rurally located. And we’ve developed protocols for our national account partners so that the retail locations are receiving consistent and dedicated support.”
Current Canadian cruise market trends
Gain says price sensitivity is still a key driver in the Canadian cruise market this year, which she says comes as no surprise.
“On the other side, the value-driven consumer is also very prominent based on our success with the ongoing Free at Sea promotion. We are seeing an enormous amount of interest in Europe as well, which I’m sure is driven at least in part by the competitive airfares in the market now.”
Gain and her Canadian Norwegian colleagues are also seeing a longer booking window.
“Canadians seem to prefer to book 4-5 months away from sailing, at a minimum. While there will always be a market for the last-minute cruiser, this group seems to be reducing in size while the other is growing.”
Gain has an easy answer for agents who want to grow their Norwegian sales – just get in touch.
“We have the full team including headshots and contact information listed here on Open Jaw, so your Norwegian support is ready and waiting for you. And don’t forget to check out our latest Cruise Report, a regular Open Jaw feature. We are easy to find, and very focused on providing our trade partners with the level of support they deserve.”