RCI's Freed Says Aging Workforce Is Biggest Challenge & Opportunity
Cruise Week

Royal Caribbean’s Vicki Freed singles out an aging workforce as the biggest challenge – and the biggest opportunity – facing cruise sellers.

‘Today, our workforce of travel agents under 45 years of age is only 20%. With this, I see a great opportunity to reinvent our industry. There are many young college graduates out there in a challenging work environment. These grads are looking for interesting and rewarding careers filled with excitement – and that certainly sounds like the travel industry to me.’

Freed says an infusion of new blood is necessary, and a younger generation has the tools needed for a 21st century industry transformation. “This group of 20 to 30 somethings is creative, innovative and will help us redefine what a travel agent is. They understand the modern marketplace. They know how to speak to their peers and how that group prefers to buy. We need more young people in this business to attract young clients. Using tools geared to this target market and beyond, like social networking and other online media, is certainly a first step. Learning to think like a 20 to 30 something or working alongside of one is probably an even better one.”

Cruise Week recently spoke with a 23 year old entering his Dad’s agency but bringing his own perspective.  J.T. Trotta’s father Frank is president of Prime Time Travel and Trotta’s Cruise and Vacation Store on New York’s Long Island. “I’ve been working in the office for the last seven years,” J.T. relates. “I know it from inside and out. We started growing, and expanding online was a perfect fit for me.”

Trotta put his skills to work creating an e-commerce presence for the business — cruisetoanywhere.com. “I built the website and got it up and running last year when I was in college, and business has since been growing by a large amount,” reports Trotta.

“With all the changes going on, I don’t think you can survive with just a brick and mortar business anymore. We want a bigger piece of the pie and being online we can reach it. Now, I have a huge customer base in California; I have a customer base in Florida as well. It’s more difficult to grow today if you don’t have the online side of the business.”

Trotta says he isn’t afraid to take on large national players. “We’re just as competitive as any other online broker.  In this industry, it’s all yield management and inventory management. If I can manage my groups tightly, am able to give the customer amenities and added value as well as provide them with a good price, I’m right there next to the big guys.”

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