Travel agents powering a bookings boom, Crystal says

By Emma Weissmann
NEW YORK — Crystal Cruises said that its advanced bookings have increased 35% in the past year, due largely in part to the luxury line's high amount of travel agent support.

Only 5% of Crystal bookings come from direct sales, a percentage that reflects the cruise line’s efforts to work with agents through the entire booking process, said Jack Anderson, senior vice president of marketing and sales, at a roundtable discussion with trade journalists aboard the Crystal Symphony.

Jack_AndersonAnderson said Crystal also supports travel professionals by reaching out to small, home-based or new agencies; offering promotional “book now” fares; and offering direct incentives to agents.

For example, the company will give a complimentary cruise to any travel agent who books three cruises in a year, a promotion known as the “Sell Three, Sail Free” plan. The next incentive is “Sell 6, Sail in a Penthouse.”

“The reason we do it is completely selfish,” Anderson said. “We can document when [agents] sail with us, and they can articulate much more passionately the value of Crystal and why we’re extraordinary and different.”

Anti-rebating policies protect agents from onboard solicitations, Anderson said. If guests make a future booking while onboard a Crystal ship and ask for the booking to be transferred to another agency, only 5% commission is paid to the receiving agency. If the booking remains with the original agent, the full commission (up to 17%) will apply.

In addition to having sturdy relationships with travel agents, Anderson credits the high raise in revenue to the company’s sales force, which he calls “the largest dedicated sales force in the luxury cruise business.”

“They are the most professional, the most committed to helping agents, and so I think they are a key component to our success,” Anderson said. “They are much more seasoned in terms of being agent developers.”
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