Norwegian Deployment Spurs Shift In Agent Messaging


A year ago at this time, agents attending trade functions involving Norwegian Cruise Line would hear a sales pitch to the tune of: `We as a brand are growing by leaps and bounds in North America - a 60% capacity increase over a 5 yr. period. If your business with Norwegian is not increasing by that or more, you’re losing out.’

Now with increased China deployment, North American capacity growth will be significantly reduced over the next couple of years. With that in mind, as travel agents enthusiastically greeted the new Escape during events in Miami this week, Norwegian President & COO Andy Stuart put the focus on shifting trade strategy priorities. His summation of the current trends impacting trade relations: “Business booking earlier, emphasis coming off price, (and) much more aggressive value-add promotions.”

Stuart adds that many retailers already are doing a fantastic job explaining the beverage packages and other value-adds. “So if someone is shopping with a travel agent, and that agent is not making it abundantly clear that that $999 Caribbean balcony includes a $400 beverage package per person, they're missing an opportunity, because their competitor across the street is doing just that.”


The company’s new emphasis on affinity groups is tied into the overall emphasis on “coming off price and booking business earlier,” says Stuart. “I don't know that enough agents fully get the picture on our changing group business,” says Stuart. “We know there's 2 different kinds of groups—affinity and speculative. Unfortunately, the industry has morphed more towards the speculative group.
“When we reviewed group business, I felt we were encouraging the group that was the least positive with us - speculative. Which is why we're now putting more effort into the affinity group. The affinity groups are the ones who book earlier.”
Then there’s the pricing. “Whether it be salsa dancing or a wine club, it's some affinity that people have an interest in that probably isn't cruising.”
Stuart says that's a benefit because it makes the sale becomes less about the actual cruise price. “Whether it be music or dancing as the interest among people joining the group, their passion about that affinity makes it's much easier to make the price the last question from them.”

This is the perspective that spurred a new affinity group program. "The reason the speculative group program was challenging for affinity groups was because the promotion changed every month," says Stuart. "It was quite a high TC number to get someone accompanying the group. That meant agents had a relatively low opportunity to come and to give the group a life."
The result was that Norwegian moved to lower the number. "The new affinity group program takes the TC program down to the lowest I've ever seen in the industry," says Stuart.

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