MSC Is Expanding At A Breakneck Pace – And Counting On Advisor Support

Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw

Achille Staiano’s job just keeps getting bigger. That’s what happens when you’re vice president of global sales for a cruise line that’s investing close to $30 billion in new ships through 2030.

We’re talking about MSC Cruises, of course, a company making waves around the world with its breakneck growth, innovative designs and focus on sustainability. 

Staiano was in Toronto this week for an event to bring travel advisors up to date on all things MSC. There was a whole lot to talk about.

L-R: Achille Staiano, VP of Global Sales; Ian Patterson, Country Manager, Canada;
and Federico Maccotta, Sales Support & Development Sr. Manager, China, U.S. & Canada.

Now based in Geneva, MSC was founded in Naples, Italy, in 1989. It is part of Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), the second-largest container shipping company in the world. In just three decades, MSC has grown to become the world’s largest privately held cruise line and the fourth-largest overall. And it’s just getting started. By year-end MSC will have 19 ships in the water and another 10 under contract, including behemoth 6,600-pax ‘World Class’ ships.

That’s a whole lot of berths to fill, and MSC is counting on its retail partners to do some of the heavy lifting. Judging by the large and enthusiastic crowd for the event held at Toronto’s Pizzeria Moretti, they’re happy to take on the challenge.

They’ll have plenty of support too, as MSC opened a dedicated Canadian office last year and continues to grow the team. “We have a lot of work to do together,” Staiano told the audience. “We will provide you with the tools to do that.” He added that support for MSC was strong even before the office opened, and continues to grow at a rapid pace.

Ian Patterson speaking at the event.

While MSC has faced some struggles in adjusting its product to American tastes as it expanded its presence in the Caribbean market, he says Canadians were quite comfortable with MSC’s cosmopolitan onboard ambience.

“I believe that Canadians are closer to the European mentality and they understand our brand and enjoy our international approach,” Staiano told Open Jaw. “And with five continents of product, we can be a one-stop shop for international product. So I think there’s a rapid growth opportunity for Canadian travel agents.”

Ian Patterson, Country Manager, Canada for MSC, has been with the company for a decade. A year ago, prior to the opening of the Canadian office, there were just four employees in the Great White North. By the end of Q1 this year he expects that number to be 30.“We planted the flag in Canada like no one else has done,” Patterson said. “Geneva understands that Canada is an integral part of our global success, and the office here is a natural progression.”

More staff means better service for Canadian cruise sellers. The Contact Centre’s business hours have been extended, the groups department expanded and new bilingual brochures with CAD$ pricing released. A happy result of that investment, Patterson says, is that hold times are averaging about a minute and a half.

Agents enjoyed dinner at Toronto’s Pizzeria Moretti.

The Canadian MSC Country Manager says MSC Book, the line’s online agent booking system, is “the best way to book” and is being used about 75% of the time. “Is it perfect? No, but we’re getting there.”

MSC Book will also soon offer the ability to book pre- and post-cruise hotels, flights and transfers, all commissionable at 10%. “Our drink packages are commissionable at source too, we’re the only cruise line that does that.”

Patterson also said more tools are being developed to help agents boost sales, including virtual reality ship tours for those unable to see ships in person, and an expanded MSC Academy agent education program, that will soon enable travel professionals to earn their ‘MSC Masters.’

Bruce Parkinson

Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief

An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.

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