Agents - Don’t Ever Forget Your Value As Business Partners
Travel agents routinely hear from speakers at industry conferences of their importance to cruise lines, but oftentimes the words ring hollow. Most agents can recall times when they were made to feel irrelevant when cruise lines made decisions affecting their clients. The cruise lines are big companies, and agents, by comparison, are small, with more limited resources. Frustration is bound to set in from time to time.
But Frank Del Rio’s words at this year’s V.com conference didn’t ring hollow. “Most importantly,” emphasized the President & CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, “know your value as a business partner. Travel partners are critical to our business success.”
He then combined that statement of agent importance with an explanation of why vacation sellers should believe the sentiment.“You reach customers we can never reach in the most cost effective way I know. Your ability to specialize and reach customers who were never thinking about going on a cruise is a huge advantage that you have over the slickest marketing that we could ever produce or the coolest website on Earth.”
Del Rio illustrated his point with a personal experience: “Travel agents can make or break sales and make or break companies. Trust me. I’ve seen the break, and I’ve seen the make, and I much prefer the make.”
“Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you don’t add value - not only to your customers but especially to the vendors that you work with. We strongly believe that unless our travel agent partners succeed, we cannot succeed either.You are key to being able to seamlessly explain and sell thousands of products that are out there and fit that customer to the right brand, the right experience. That’s what sets you apart. You are the gatekeepers.”
Fittingly, Del Rio spoke at an agent conference in Florida, during which 3 cruise company CEOs headlined the event. All 3 are heading companies currently investing billions in new hardware. Yet all 3 took the time to prioritize speaking at the V.com conference.
“It’s a commitment of their time,” said Vacation.com President John Lovell. “Richard Fain, Arnold Donald, Frank Del Rio…not only commit that time to come to us en masse, but their entire teams are here. Frank Del Rio’s entire senior management team was on site - [Andy Stuart, Jason Montague, etc].”
When those CEOs speak you feel the power in the room. “You get the energy,” said Lovell. “...I also look at the commitment from [the side of] the business owner, saying, ‘Why do I belong to somebody?’ Then it turns into the commitment from the business owner. They’ve invested time to be here. They’re seeing people that are investing their time in them, and they’re not minor players in the industry.”
Richard Fain, the Chairman & CEO of Royal Caribbean International had come to the conference immediately following the launch of the world’s largest cruise ship. He thanked the agents for their business.
Lovell understands why. “70% of all cabins sold on any ship are going through the distribution channels. Say they spend a billion dollars on a ship. His thank you is really $700,000,000 he invested in the travel agency distribution channel. That is a huge commitment. Ultimately, they’re writing that check with the commitment of the travel agents that are going to sell that product for them.
“So these execs mean it when they say, ‘We need you. We support you. You’ll always be relevant.’”