“We’re taking a risk with NCFs,” acknowledged Norwegian Cruise Line SVP of sales Todd Hamilton. “But if you are offered a ride on a rocket ship, you don’t ask which seat.”
Speaking at the Signature Travel Network conference in Las Vegas about Norwegian’s promise to pay commissions on NCFs, Hamilton noted that the cruise line’s growth plan (like that of many agencies) is headed upscale. “Cookie-cutter itineraries” are being replaced with more curated, longer, more port-intensive—and more expensive—ones, with the goal being to give guests not just a cruise but an amazing all-inclusive vacation experience.
Staying on the booking curve requires three things: being easy to do business with, being a true partner to the travel advisor community, and providing value to the guest. To that end, Norwegian’s marketing budget for 2023 is written in pencil, waiting for a number that travel advisors will help it determine.
“We have no clue what the number will be because we will market enough to fill our ships,” Hamilton said. “We are going to come to you guys and ask, what do you need?”
Selling more expensive cruises than those offered by its mainstream competitors requires real experts who can explain the value proposition to customers. “Marketing is at the heart of everything we do,” Hamilton said. “We want you to work with our sales team to come up with the best possible plan. We want to be a true partner; we are here to support you and we ask you to support us.”
NCL last week announced that it will pay commissions on NCFs starting with sailings departing May 1, 2023, and booked more than 120 days out—but travel advisors must file a marketing plan to be eligible.
Hamilton stressed at the conference that while the initial announcement said it was for bookings made after January 1, the offer has been made retroactive, so bookings made today are eligible.