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 that."

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."

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