Travel advisors have tremendous potential to tap into the new-to-cruise market to find new clients, cruise line executives believe.
Several executives -- Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley, Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald, MSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorato and Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Andy Stuart -- addressed the topic last week during the ASTA Global Convention at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale.
Panel moderator and CBS News reporter Wendy Gillette asked the executives how advisors can tap into the segment of the population that hasn't yet cruised.
Bayley said the key lies in segmentation and matching the right customers to the right brand.
"There are rich opportunities for every single brand, and there are rich opportunities in the marketplace in terms of this idea of segmentation," he said.
Donald encouraged travel advisors to pitch cruising to their clients as a vacation with great value and the convenience of packing once and moving from place to place effortlessly.
He agreed that it's important advisors understand different offerings and how a client might fit on a particular brand depending on the type of travel. For instance, Donald said, a multigenerational group would likely be a better fit on some ships than a couple celebrating an anniversary.
If an agent successfully pairs a client with the right brand for them, according to their interests and their values, "you have a huge home run," he said. "That's the opportunity."
In addition to talking about the inherent value of a cruise, Donald encouraged advisors to sell cruise products using their own personal experiences and those of their satisfied cruise customers.
Onorato encouraged advisors to think outside the box of traditional cruisers. He suggested looking to segments that don't traditionally choose cruising, like the corporate meetings and incentives industry. It's a new direction that would enable more noncruisers to experience cruising for the first time.
Finally, Stuart said advisors should jump on the hype about all of the new ships coming out. There is always noise surrounding a new ship, and that should be capitalized on.
He also encouraged agents to run with cruise line promotions, like free air, which Norwegian plans to expand to more than 100 gateways.
All the executives agreed that travel advisors are a critically important piece in filling cabins.
"You reach people we could just never reach," Stuart said.