By Jennifer Dorsey
GLASGOW, Scotland -- The expansion of the European cruise market
presents agents with a great opportunity to earn big commissions
and deliver client satisfaction, according to five cruise
executives who participated in a panel discussion here at the ASTA
World Travel Congress.
"Cruise lines are deploying more and more tonnage in these
markets. There is quite a selection not only in the destination but
in the choice of products," said Rick James senior vice president
of sales and corporate relations for Princess Cruises and chairman
of Cruise Lines International Association.
Here are some thoughts from those five executives for agents
interested in selling European cruises:
* Know the Product. Gaye Stewart-Loudis, director of Canadian
and National sales for Royal Caribbean, said many agents lack
extensive knowledge of Europe, so agents owners and managers should
get their agents up to speed on the region and the cruise lines
operating there. Assigning destination specialties within the
agency is one way; Giving agents "geography tests" is another, she
said. It is especially important that agents be able to match wits
with their clients, Stewart-Loudis said, given that travelers these
days tend to do a lot of destination research on their own. "If
your people are knowledgeable about the product you will get the
clients," she said.
* Know the Product, Part II. Does the client want an
American-style on-board experience or a European one? In response
to a question from an agent, the panelists indicated that the
delivery varies among the different cruise lines. James, for
example, said Princess brings the North American cruise to the
European market. It is very difficult to provide a mixed product
delivery to a variety of clients and deliver across-the-board
satisfaction, he said. William Smith president of Silversea
Cruises, said he wants to provide a foreign flavor. "I want to take
the guy from Omaha and given him an international experience,"
Smith said. Stewart-Loudis said Royal Caribbean is "right in the
middle," offering "refinements such as shows with European singers
and wine lists with more European than California wines."
* Know the Client. With "fellow cruisers" such a key element of
the on-board experience, it is "incredibly important for agents to
match the customer to the right ship," Patrice Willoughby, Cunard's
vice president of sales for the Americas, said. There is a great
variety of European cruise options on the market today, so agents
should be able to frame their discussions to sell to anyone from
the novice cruiser, or the person who has never visited Europe to
the experienced European FIT clients, she suggested. It can be
pointed out for example, that a European cruise provides a better
overview of the region than a motorcoach tour, with a "huge comfort
and security factor," for customers who have never traveled there.
And for Europe FIT veterans, there are cruise products that allow
for a very "unstructured environment" where they can do their own
thing, Willoughby said.
* Sell Year-round. "Do not think of Europe as being a seasonal
cruise destination" open only in June, July and August, Bjarne
Mikkelson, president and owner of EuroCruises, a cruise-tour
operator, said. He cited Malta, Gibralter, Dubrovnik and the Canary
Islands as examples of cruise destinations that can be enjoyed in
other seasons, enabling the more cost-conscious passengers to take
advantage of low fares.
* Know the Trends. The European cruise market is a big one for
repeat business, William Smith, president of Silversea Cruises,
advised. The volume of clients wanting to go back for more is
generating consumer demand to explore new destinations, whether it
is an exotic port on the heel of Italy or the fjords of the North
Sea, he said. The good news is that this is pushing cruise lines to
become more "innovative and creative" with their itineraries, he