Dickinson talks about new Carnival role

By Tom Stieghorst
Bob DickinsonRelations with travel agents will be a central part of a new special consulting job at Carnival Corp. for former Carnival Cruise Lines president and CEO Bob Dickinson.

On Monday, Carnival disclosed a consulting contract with Dickinson, who stepped down from the board of directors in April.

In an interview today with Travel Weekly, Dickinson said he had been retained to provide advice on marketing and distribution at Carnival's North American brands.

The first task will be to assess the brands' deficiencies, opportunities and strengths, and then to conduct a "gap analysis" on where brands have a chance to improve.

"Then we'll develop strategies to enhance relations with travel agents; that’s really what it’s all about," Dickinson said. He said the Carnival brands want their travel agent relations to be "as robust as possible."

Perceptions of the cruise industry will be another subject Dickinson will study. He said there's a lot of opportunity to reset the public's image. Again, a comparative analysis will show which brands are faring best with consumers, and which are lagging.

"So, if one of our brands has done better against its competitive peer set, we’re going to celebrate that,” he said. “And similarly, if one has deteriorated its position, we’re going to understand why and come up with steps to remediate it.”

Dickinson said a cruise company's marketing and distribution are "inextricably intertwined," because travel agents depend on a brand being strong and being marketed adroitly.

To use a hyperbolic example, Dickinson said, "If one of the brands decided to rename themselves the Black Hole of Calcutta and did that branding image, it probably wouldn’t be good for the agent community, would it? It would make their job tougher.

"Similarly if a brand has done very well in terms of brand execution and guest loyalty and is delivering an excellent product, they’re making the job of the travel agent easier," he said.

Dickinson said that prior to the end of his board term, he began talking with Carnival Corp. Vice Chairman Howard Frank about opportunities going forward.

"And he came up with this, which is certainly very near and dear to my heart,” Dickinson said. “Without a doubt, the largest success Carnival has had, certainly in the 36 years that I was there, has to be due to the agent community and the tremendous support we’ve had from travel agents all over.”

Follow Tom Stieghorst on Twitter @tstravelweekly.
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