ONBOARD THE NORWEGIAN ENCORE -- For travel professionals
wondering whether the leadership change at Norwegian Cruise Line will spell
changes for their relationship with the line, incoming president and CEO Harry
Sommer has a message.
"I plan to continue having excellent relations with the
trade," Sommer told a crowded theater of travel advisors on the ship here.
In his first address to a large audience of U.S. travel
advisors, Sommer spoke for about 20 minutes about three prongs of investment at
Norwegian: trade relations, product upgrades and environmental commitment.
He acknowledged the upcoming departure of Norwegian's
current president and CEO, who is well-liked by the trade. "I love Andy Stuart," he said, and added that one of Stuart's biggest legacies will be the sales and marketing team that's
in place, which includes chief sales officer Katina Athanasiou and senior vice
president of sales Camille Olivere.
Regarding the line's Partners First program, he said, "We're
committed to becoming the easiest major cruise line to do business with. We're
committed to your client relationship -- our combined guests but we realize
they're your clients -- and we're committed to listening and taking action."
He said he called the line's top 15 accounts "to hear what
it was they were seeing in the community, what it was that we could do to make
our product even better than it is today."
By way of example in trade commitment, he said Norwegian had
been focused on shortening call-center wait times, evidently a sore spot with
travel sellers. He said the first report he now gets in the morning is the
average speed of answer at the call center; for the last 10 days it's been
under five seconds.
"I challenged my guys to see if they can get it to four," he
said after applause subsided. "Not sure if the system can actually allow for
Several other bursts of applause came during a presentation
by Olivere, who touched on the line's popular Free at Sea promotion, in which amenities
are included with specific cabin categories. She also talked about Norwegian’s relaunched
affinity-group program and a Wave promotion that would enable agents to earn
points for bookings and redeem the points for gift cards. The line is delaying
its commission reset until the second quarter of 2020 to give advisors more
time to sell up to another commission level, she added.
"There are so many ships coming over the next few years,"
Olivere said. "You guys can be confident that we're going to need you more than
ever, because competition is going to be tough, and we're going to be No. 1."