by LAURA DEL ROSSO
SAN FRANCISCO -- Travel agents who question whether the cruise
industry is overbuilding should not worry, said Lee Robinson, vice
president of field sales for Princess Cruises.
"Cruise lines aren't stupid," Robinson told delegates at the
34th annual ARTA Conference.
"We haven't invested billions of dollars in our industry's
future if we didn't believe, and if research didn't bear out that
we are well positioned for a bright future."
The top three cruise lines -- Carnival, Royal Caribbean and
Princess -- have more than 46,000 lower berths. With the addition
of 20,000 by the end of 1998, they will carry nearly 66,000 lower
However, Robinson added, those figures do not take into account
ships that will be retiring, sold or moved into new markets.
"If you take all these factors into account, the actual net
growth of the cruise industry is only 7% to 10% per year."
The cruise industry is not a "boom or bust industry" like
hotels, which has cycles in its business, he said.
Cruise lines have experienced only ongoing growth, with periods
And, Robinson said, there is nothing but growth ahead,
particularly as the economy strengthens and the baby boomers enter
their prime earning years.
"We are about to enter an era of dramatic prosperity -- a great
boom and upswing in the economy.
"You should be preparing for the coming boom which will last
until around 2007, according to economic indicators."
Robinson said economist Harry Dent has tracked how a generation
affects the nation's economy as it ages, and he found startling
similarities in one particular generation's impact.
The last generation, which lived through World War II and raised
the baby-boom generation, spawned a spending wave in the 1950s and
1960s and an innovation wave that brought society the jet engine,
television and such home appliances as automatic washers and
"Think about the effects of the baby boom generation. This
generation, born in the '40s, '50s and '60s -- and about 70 million
strong -- currently comprises more than three-quarters of our work
force, where income and spending power is created.
"As it approaches its peak, it will have a dramatic impact on
the economy, creating the greatest boom in our history."
Robinson recommended travel agencies take four steps to prepare
themselves for the coming boom:
* Establish goals, both short and long term, that are in harmony
with one another and challenging.
If an agent has sold 75 cruises this year, he or she should set
a goal of 125 next year and incorporate this into their business
* Establish a prospecting program, the most crucial element in
"When you are not providing superior customer service, you
should devote attention and energy to business development and
prospecting," the executive said.
* Focus on providing superior customer service.
* Agents must accept that they are salespeople.
"Our [cruise] industry spends over $250 million each year to
drive customers through your doors," Robinson said.
"Your role is to close the sale. You need only be excellent
salespeople," he added.
"The cruise lines are going to generate bookings -- what we need
is someone to take that potential cruise sale, close it and service