Fain: We value travel agents, and we're not alone

By Tom Stieghorst

FORT LAUDERDALE — Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. CEO Richard Fain told agents attending CruiseWorld that they’re in the cat bird’s seat now, as suppliers one-up each other to show their respect and loyalty.

“We have been supporting travel agents ever since I got into this business not because we’re nice guys … but we do it because it’s in our own best interest,” said Fain.

“We have believed that for decades and we will continue to believe it, because it’s true. The fact that so many of us are making a real effort to reach out to you should be a testament to all of you that we as an industry do get it.”

Fain said the travel agent’s role as a consumer guide can’t be adopted by the suppliers themselves.

“I believe we’re not in the position to do that,” he said. “We can provide … support to you. But the public isn’t going to listen to this just from us. And we’re not going to be able to provide the one-on-one relationship that is still so important, especially in our business.”

Fain treated conference-goers to an extended story about buying a dress for his daughter, and how he appreciated the sales associate’s help in making a pricey and unfamiliar purchase.

The same holds true for cruise shoppers. “I really do think that is very analogous. I know what dresses are. Everybody knows what vacations are. But people really do need to be guided,” Fain said.

That, he said, is the value added by good agents. “You can tell them this flight or whatever is cheaper than that one. If that’s all you’re doing, who needs you? On the other hand if you’re guiding them, and providing them with information about what’s different, who can do without you?”

Asked by Travel Weekly’s senior vice president and editor in chief, Arnie Weissmann, whether Azamara Club Cruises is due some new ships, Fain said that capacity growth across RCCL has been slowing, but that bookings at Azamara are “just sterling” this year, and that if it continues and the opportunity presents itself, he would be happy to expand.

Fain also said he deferred to the judgment of others about airing a pricey new television ad for Quantum of the Seas, set for delivery next year.

“We spent a lot to do that. The new video for Quantum of the Seas was remarkable. I have to admit I opposed the expenditure, but I now realize that it was one of my better ideas,” Fain quipped.

Fain was the second of three top cruise CEOs to appear at the conference, following Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald on Wednesday, and preceding an appearance by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings chairman Kevin Sheehan on Friday.

Follow Tom Stieghorst on Twitter @tstravelweekly. 


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