As cruise demand continues to come back, there is a trend that Royal Caribbean Group CEO Richard Fain wants to change.
The surge in bookings is mostly coming from the internet and not from travel agencies.
"Demand is coming back. We're seeing more visitors to our website and we have more calls and more bookings coming to us," Fain said in a video message for travel advisors. "No question about it, it's encouraging. But there are some important signs buried in all these numbers, because the surge is coming more from the internet than it is coming from our travel advisors."
Fain said that is understandable in the near-term for various reasons. People got used to buying things online during the pandemic, he said, something they are continuing to do as the shutdown ends. Also, he acknowledged that many travel advisors had to cut back on staff and marketing during the shutdown.
"But now we need to rebuild," he said. "So travel advisors need to do more of what you all do so well. I know it's a chicken and egg situation: You don't want to rehire a lot of people and don't want to pay for a lot of advertising until you see the dollars coming in. But the dollars won't arrive until you make the necessary commitment to attract those dollars."
Fain said that while online bookings are attractive to the company, and that many people will continue to buy online, he was clear: "We need you, our travel partners, to reach our full potential."
And, he said, travel advisors should reap the rewards of assuring cruisers that it was safe to sail again in the first place.
"It was the expertise of the travel advisors that gave people the impetus to cruise. It was the information that you travel advisors provided that gave people the confidence to buy a cruise," Fain said. "Simply put, we need you. And we need your personal touch. We need you and your knowledge, and the clients need you to help them understand the complexities. Reach out to your clients, especially those holding a future cruise certificate, and inspire them to plan their cruise now."
Fain said Royal's teams are there to support the regrowth of travel agency business. "We're counting on you, and together we will all move forward to a brighter future."
And moving on, he said, is what everyone needs to be doing now.
"I'm going to stop talking about the disease," Fain said. "The time has come to look forward. The time has come to focus on how we come out of the panic and out of the pandemic, rather than how we should live during it."
And what should cruise companies and travel advisors do now to move forward?
"The simple answer is to do what we've always done for decades: Sell cruises."