A quick peek at Recommend’s Facebook page this morning, under a question posed to travel advisors on how their bookings were going, gave me a glimpse of the “light at the end of the tunnel”: So many of you are making bookings, and so many of those are specifically cruise bookings.
The confidence in the cruise industry is palpable among advisors, and, as Ann Chamberlain, v.p., sales, Scenic Group USA, says, “when we come out of this, we foresee a buyer’s market with lots of travel deals to be had to lure travelers back. Travelers will be able to grab some great opportunities to check off bucket list items that might’ve been out of their reach in the past.” Chris Austin, sr. v.p., global marketing & sales, Seabourn, adds that he’s confident the cruise industry “will respond to this situation just like it has in the past, finding ways to open up travel experiences once again and simultaneously strengthening the confidence consumers have in cruise.”
Sailing into the New Normal
“While we don’t yet know what the future holds,” Austin continues, “I’m confident our company—like many others in the industry—will uphold the standards necessary to create a safe, enjoyable experience for our guests as they visit some of the most fascinating places in the world.” He adds that he’s “optimistic that we will see destinations respond to this situation with an eye toward the future. The travel industry plays an integral role in a vibrant global economy and will be instrumental to the long-term recovery we will see in the months and years ahead.”
“Clients and advisors will seek to book with suppliers who are financially stable and who can show support of that stability; and they will look for suppliers offering easy payment terms and flexibility with deposits and final payment terms.“
—Ann Chamberlain, Vice President, Sales, Scenic Group USA
According to both Chamberlain and Austin, what will become most important will be safety, security and flexibility, with Chamberlain noting that we’ll “certainly see new cleanliness standards for ships…and guest health and ongoing testing will most likely occur. We would not be surprised to see required ‘doctors’ authorization to travel’ letters. It will take some time to sort through those things that work and those that just cause more confusion. We can be sure that whatever solution or strategy is thought of today, will most likely be different than what we find out a month from now as experts get a better understanding of what will work. Scenic will certainly be testing all of these possibilities and will not begin to greet our guests again until we have full confidence in the ability to keep them safe and healthy.”
Getting Through the Crisis Together
“Stay positive,” says Chamberlain to travel advisors. “Always look for the silver lining in any situation.” With that in mind, Scenic is looking at a few ways they can possibly invigorate their travel advisor partners as they will “definitely need a ‘vacation’ when we return to some sort of normalcy.”
And from the get-go, many cruise lines have been proactive in their long-standing relationships with their travel advisor partners by creating or enhancing programs: Royal Caribbean Group launching RCL Cares; Carnival Cruise Line enhancing its Onboard with You pledge to travel partners; Viking’s Risk-Free Guarantee; Avalon Waterways’ Peace of Mind Travel Plan; Crystal’s Crystal Assured Savings program; and AmaWaterways’ virtual Marketing Suitcase, among a host of others.
“We’ve kept a focus on generating ideas to help agencies and advisors maintain precious revenue streams through promotional efforts, revised booking and payment policies, and opportunities to earn and preserve commissions.”
–Chris Austin, Senior Vice President, Global Marketing & Sales, Seabourn
As Austin notes, “We may not be able to make office visits or trade show appointments right now, but we’ve made a concerted effort to re-create the same human connections leveraging all virtual tools available, and using the phone and video calls to be able to remain connected as much as possible. Our teams have delivered customized webinars and leveraged the Seabourn Academy as a valuable learning tool now. Having someone there to listen and share ideas with can be incredibly helpful in determining what’s going on and what the future may hold.”
All of this support from the cruise lines for you, the travel advisors, is imperative in these unprecedented times, because as Michelle Fee, founder & CEO, Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative, said in an open letter to the industry, “I feel very strongly that travel advisors will be key to this recovery and resurgence…. It will be travel advisors that will help provide guidance, information and expert advice to help clients navigate the ‘new normal’ when travel does re-emerge.… Never has the demand
and value of the travel advisor been greater. We are thankful to all our major suppliers—specifically the major cruise lines—that not only are protecting the commissions of cancelled sailings, but they are also protecting the commissions on future bookings.”