I’m sure most of you have been reading the many blog posts from agents who are concerned that the two mega cruise lines, Carnival and Royal Caribbean, are dictating the future of travel agents and more importantly, how much they make.
Travel agents have a right to question the viability of their careers in light of some of the recent year’s changes by the big two. One big question is, why are direct bookings continuing to increase? Hopefully, someone will ask about this at the CLIA Cruise3sixty Conference.
If last year’s results are any indication, Carnival Corp and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd have to be happy with the direction they are heading. Their income is going up, how about yours?
For Carnival Corp’s 2013 year, they had total revenues of 15.5 Billion, up from 15.4 Billion in 2012. They posted a Net Profit of 1.2 Billion and they have seen their stock price trading in the $40 range lately.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.’s had total revenues of 8 Billion in 2013, up from 7.6 Billion in 2012. Their Net Profit was 473 Million in 2013 and they also have seen a good increase in their stock price. It was recently trading at $54 per share. Did anyone buy any shares when they were only $5.40 a share back in March of 2009?
Here is My Main Takeaway
My main takeaway is to suggest that travel agents need to ensure that the big two don’t drive the smaller cruise lines out of your markets. Competition for agent loyalty is the best way agents will continue to be a viable sales force in the future. You need to support the smaller lines too.
It is important that travel agents support the cruise lines that support them. You can do this by trying to always offer one of the great deals form the smaller cruise lines when your clients ask for a quote. By offering additional choices, you bring a value to your client. Anyone can find the price of the cruise they are considering, while only you know about the current sales and some of the great deals being offered elsewhere.
Don’t forget MSC and NCL
The fact that NCL and MSC are now offering two beautiful new ships on a year-round basis in the Caribbean is a huge opportunity for the travel agent community. But, it’s only an opportunity if we get behind them and start offering them to our clients and prospects. We can’t ignore the commitment these two lines have made to travel industry and we owe them our support, if we want have competitive prices to offer our prospects.
We all know that low prices help attract new cruisers and that 60% of first time cruisers, cruise again. So, if you didn’t mention MSC’s recent 3-day offer of 7-day Caribbean Cruises starting at $299, with up to a $50 shipboard credit, you literally are missing the boat and the opportunity to attract some new cruisers.
But, did you know that NCL recently had some $319 cruises that also offered $50 shipboard credits? Better yet, Carnival had a $289 cruise offer and another one at $309. These are great examples of what competition can do for you. We need to ensure that NCL and MSC get a share of our business, if we want them to keep year-round Caribbean ships in Miami.
Market What Makes NCL and MSC Different and Such a Great Value to Discerning Prospects
I know many of the old time cruisers don’t like NCL’s “Freestyle Cruising.” They grew up with the set dining times and enjoyed getting to know the same waiters and tablemates. But folks, times are a changing and it might be time for you to rethink marketing this main NCL difference. Today’s discerning client enjoys selecting from a wide selection of dining venues and NCL offers more choices than anyone.
Another great difference on the Norwegian Getaway is the Waterfront, a quarter-mile oceanfront boardwalk experience lined with restaurants, bars and spectacular views. Now your clients can enjoy a beautiful sunset while dining from a table looking down at the sea. After dinner, they can enjoy NCL’s new Grammy Experience or the Illusionarium special effects-laden magic show. Who doesn’t love a good magic show?
MSC also added year-round Caribbean cruises from Miami on one of their new Fantasia class ships, the MSC Divina. You probably haven’t cruised on MSC but you should, as my two MSC cruises were wonderful and I found their white glove service very memorable.
I would market two main things that make MSC different. The first is their Yacht Club experience, which offers a selection of luxurious suites on the front of the ship. They have an opulent Concierge reception area, private pool and bar area, plus a private restaurant and private access to the MSC Aurea Spa. They also have complimentary drinks, butler service and nightly gourmet delights.
The second thing I would market is their fantastic theme cruises which are great for new groups. Take a look at their Wine Cruise and their Baseball Cruise. MSC combines some very aggressive market rates and their Kids Cruise Free program, to make them a very attractive alternative.
So there you have it. If you want to grow your business you need to help these two cruise lines grow their Miami business. Both of these cruise lines are very agent friendly and deserve our support–are you ready to come on board?
Larry Norman, CTC, MCC is an icon in the industry. He has been a consultant to over 5,000 Home Based Travel Agents and trained an estimated 22,000 travel agents over his career. He was Travel Trade’s 1996 Travel Educator of the Year. Larry owned a four state network of 16 agencies, with annual sales of $28 million. Larry is known as “The Outside Sales Agent Expert” for his presentations on outside sales at Travel Trade Cruise-A-Thons, ASTA, ARTA and NACOA travel agent conferences among others. You can share your views with Larry at LarryNormanCTC@Gmail.comor leave a comment here.