Travelsavers’ Nest Virtual Conference Cruise Panel: Marketing & The Importance Of The Trade

Anna Kroupina, Open Jaw

With their sights set on a burgeoning cruise rebound in 2021, top-level execs agree the industry will recover with a vengeance, and the path forward is hand-in-hand with the travel advisor distribution channel.

That was the overwhelming sentiment during a cruise panel discussion on Day 1 of Travelsavers’ Nest 2020 Virtual Owners Meeting, where execs from some of the largest cruise lines shared ideas on marketing, restoring consumer confidence in the industry and getting back into a sales frame of mind. 

To understand the importance advisors play as a distribution channel in cruise, one only needs to look at how much they contribute to sales: the trade is responsible for 75% of all cruises sold worldwide every single year in contemporary and premium categories, highlighted panel moderator Charles Sylvia, VP, Membership and Trade Relations at CLIA. In the luxury sector, that number jumps to 94%. Those percentages, based on CLIA data, will only increase as consumers "will need that hand-holding moving forward", Sylvia noted. 

"The travel advisor distribution channel for us at Norwegian is critical and there is no path forward for us that doesn't include a very healthy, successful travel advisor distribution channel," said Katina Athanasiou, Chief Sales Officer, Norwegian Cruise Line. "Ensuring that we remain alongside our partners and create additional opportunities for growth and success and help generate demand is one of the things we continue to focus on and drive every day."

Michelle Lardizabal, SVP & Commercial Sales Officer, at MSC Cruises USA, said travel advisors are especially important in communicating a factual, accurate message about the cruise experience. 

"This really is the age of the travel advisor and we need you to be out there telling the cruise story and that when we return to sailing, it's going to be in a safe and enjoyable manner. The importance of our travel advisors is critical and well beyond that because the clients need you and we need you. That's how we're going to rebuild our business together," she said. 

Top Tips From Cruise Execs

Cruise ships in the U.S. may not be sailing just yet, but it's crucial for advisors to work to restore consumer confidence in cruising, and continue to engage with their client base. Here are some key takeaways from the webinar:

  1. Talk about health and safety…

    "You should be talking about health and safety with your clients and that our standards will take us to a level that is way above anything else. Look at the volume of testing we're going to be doing. You won't get that at any land resort, I can tell you that. I think that's an important message."

    John Chernesky, SVP, Sales & Trade Marketing at Princess Cruises & Cunard Line

 

  1. …But not too much!

    "What you don't want to do as a travel advisor is try to become a medical doctor or expert. If you're talking to a client that has complete trust in the cruise line your selling, if they don't ask you about health and safety standards, I wouldn't bring it up. But when they do, we promise you you'll be more than prepared to talk about it. I think that's going to be the focus for the next 60 to 90 days, and then it'll peter off and we'll be back to creative selling." 

    Keith Lane, VP of Field Sales and National Accounts, North America at Celebrity Cruises

 

  1. Go back to the basics.

    "Connect with folks and remind them about the realities of cruising and the core of what cruising is: unpack once, see multiple destinations. It's the most highly valued, highly rated vacations you could have. Don't overlook the basics." 

    John Chernesky, SVP, Sales & Trade Marketing at Princess Cruises & Cunard Line

 

  1. Know your clients.

     "You can't speak to everyone exactly the same, so you have to first segment your customer list properly and then there are economical ways that you can engage with them. But first, you have to figure out which bucket they're in in terms of their consumer mindset and behaviour, and then you talk to each of them personally to make it meaningful."

    Katina Athanasiou, Chief Sales Officer, Norwegian Cruise Line

    "It's important for every travel advisor to make sure content is relevant to what's happening in today's environment. It can make a big difference in terms of whether someone goes beyond that first sentence of your email to hear what value you're bringing." Michelle Lardizabal, SVP & Commercial Sales Officer, at MSC Cruises USA

 

  1. Build trust through authenticity & transparency.

    "Be authentic and be transparent. We are in an age where there is information overload, but I believe that our best travel advisors are so successful because they don't try to be anything other than themselves. If there is something that you aren't well-versed in, grab an expert who can help you or get the missing information from a BDM. It's okay to tell your customer, 'I will check on that for you.'"

    Katina Athanasiou, Chief Sales Officer, Norwegian Cruise Line

 

  1. Roll with the punches. 

    "One of the things I've learned over the past several months is there are ups and downs. It's exhausting, but those that are succeeding are those that pick themselves back up, and say 'if I keep doing this over and over again and stick with it, I'm going to survive and I'm going to be more successful than ever before.' It's okay to have ups and downs but when you have your downs, pick yourself up."

    Adolfo Perez, SVP Global Sales & Trade Marketing at Carnival Cruise Line

 

Anna Kroupina

Anna Kroupina Journalist

Anna is OJ's newest member and she joins the team as a writer/reporter. She co-writes the daily news and covers events. Although she's new to the industry, pursuing a career path in travel/tourism has been a goal since her first family road trip to the Florida Keys sparked a desire to discover the world and this exhilarating, fast-paced industry



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