There’s no greater point of contact between cruise lines and local agents than the field sales force. But with a growing percentage of business being generated by national operators, will the lines keep making the expensive investment in field reps? Cruise Week posed that question to key executives of the three largest lines.
At Princess, Executive V.P. Jan Swartz says the primary role of field sales is to work closely with agent partners to build effective sales and marketing plans. ‘They make sure that owner/managers, as well as front line agents, are aware of all the incredible tools we have created to help them build their business,’ Swartz says.
“Our DSMs, through in-person training sessions, encourage [use of] and gather feedback on our tools, which is essential to continuous improvement of the products and services we offer our agent partners. We believe the most powerful combination is pairing talented human touch with great technology.”
Carnival Senior V.P. Lynn Torrent says the line is closely watching changes in the distribution landscape and working with agents to better understand how it can improve service to them.
“We believe the role of the business development manager remains critical, and fortunately, Carnival has the best sales force in the industry with the most longevity – more than 1,000 years! We also believe the role of inside sales support is a key component of serving travel agent partners.”
At Royal Caribbean, Senior V.P. Vicki Freed says the approach to field sales differs at each cruise line. ‘I think every company must look at re-evaluating their approach to the business in changing times, and while a competitor may have a different view than ours, all of our worlds are changing, and we must look at tweaking how we do business.’
Freed says the company examined how its BDMs work with agents in the field at the end of last year, and decided to offer more in-person consultation with agents. “We believe this is a relationship business, and face to face is an approach that many agents prefer and need. In my experience, the phone call to the agent doesn’t always allow us to qualify and understand the agent as well as a face-to-face call can do. It does cost more to have BDMs calling on agents rather than having an inside sales team sitting in a call centre, but, for our model, it makes sense.”