FORT LAUDERDALE Agents are a critical piece between cruisers and cruise ships, and placing the right traveler on the right ship helps ensure that the passenger is far more likely to cruise again, a panel of cruise-line presidents said during CruiseWorld.
During the Presidents' Panel, moderated by Travel Weekly editor in chief Arnie Weissmann and industry consultant Mary Pat Sullivan, the heads of six major cruise lines the importance of agents, and their jobs, crystal clear. "That's where you all play such a critical role, is in the matchmaking: matching the guest, your client, with an appropriate brand," said Jan Swartz, is the president of Princess Cruises and Carnival Australia.
Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line, pointed out that each brand has a unique personality that has to be appropriately matched with passengers. Once the right match is made, that guest's propensity to cruise again increases.
This year marks Celebrity president and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo's 33rd in the industry, and, she said, differentiating brands has been a conversation for at least that long. "We all do the same thing, and it's so important to match the right guest with the right ship," she said. "I think this industry for the most part is doing that better than we've ever done before."
The one way to lose a customer is to match them with the wrong brand, she said, a risk for agents who are new to the industry.
To that end, Andy Stuart, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, urged agents to take advantage of the digital tools available to them, like Norwegian's NCL University. Business development managers are also key in helping agents understand a product, said MSC Cruises president Roberto Fusaro, as are ship inspections and sailing with a brand.
When it comes to qualifying customers, Ashford reminded agents to differentiate between the demographics of their customers, like age and income, and the psychographics, such as what motivates and engages them.
First-time cruisers can also be lured with destinations, like Cuba and Alaska, Stuart said.