“We are all on this journey together,” TravelOnly’s President and CEO, Gregory Luciani, told the assembled audience on the deck of Norwegian Getaway, “and we thank all of you who have joined us on it – and in the process, become part of our family.”
Luciani was speaking as the week-long Symposium at Sea hosted by TravelOnly came to a fitting end, with a lavish dinner in the ship’s Tropicana restaurant, followed by a cocktail party on the expansive Spice H2O deck, putting the final flourish on a memorable seven days.
It was an eventful last day at sea for the company’s inaugural Symposium, having been marked earlier in the afternoon by the announcement of its new cruise brand, Cruise TravelOnly, to the raucous approval of travel agents in attendance.
TravelOnly executives and partners were welcomed to dinner by Norwegian Cruise Line's Dana Gain, national senior director of sales and Mary Jo Cutaia, business development manager, Western Ontario.
The day had also seen Dana Gain, Norwegian Cruise Line’s national senior director of sales, Canada, take the stage to share some of her secrets to success with a rapt audience, before a cruise panel including AmaWaterways' Sandra Gardiner, Gain and Mary Jo Cutaia of NCL, and TravelOnly's Patrick and Gregory Luciani and Pat Probert took part in a discussion and specialist insight into selling cruise.
A fresh look at cruising
In addition to providing TravelOnly associates with an insight into the potential of the cruise industry, Gregory Luciani said that the Symposium had also afforded them valuable facetime with suppliers, including NCL, WestJet, AmaWaterways and Manulife Insurance.
“The main premise was to get the associates to understand how important cruising is for the future of their travel business, and how important it is to align with our new strategy of launching a Cruise TravelOnly brand,” he told PAX.
“This allows us the opportunity to start building relationships, getting them in front of the right people. Having that relationship is really the whole point of this cruise: to get them to experience something first-hand, to come back and sell it with confidence to the customer.
“We’re sharing experiences that these associates and ourselves will take back and apply to our day-to-day operations,” he continued, “and even for myself – I’ve cruised on many cruise lines, and I’m learning something new every day.”
Dana Gain, national senior director of sales, Canada, Norwegian Cruise Line.
Gain told PAX that the week had provided an invaluable opportunity for NCL to give agents a hands-on view of their cruising experience. “In addition to learning about the product, activities, dining options and so on, in a more general sense travel agents come away with a real sense of what it feels like to cruise with Norwegian,” she commented.
“They observe how much fun our guests have onboard, and how important they are made to feel by the ship’s officers and crew. This kind of intangible is difficult to describe if you haven’t experienced it.”
The reaction from agents, she added, spoke for itself. “I had many agents approach me last week on Norwegian Getaway to tell me what an incredible experience it was for them, and that’s wonderful to hear,” she said, “because that’s the environment we are trying to create for our guests.
“Seeing Norwegian from the guest’s perspective is a very powerful thing for our trade partners.”
Tracy Emberson, business development manager – travel insurance for Manulife, echoed Gain’s sentiments. “I only get to see them [agents] in webinars, and I don’t get to meet them face-to-face, building a relationship,” she told PAX. “Meeting them face-to-face, when they know who you are and you know who they are, builds trust and confidence.”
The one-on-one sessions, she said, had proven an invaluable asset in explaining the often-complex nuances of travel insurance to agents. “We had a lot of thought-provoking questions during the [presentation] session,” she said, “and then afterwards on the on-on-ones too. The comfort level skyrockets. They feel better about the product – they didn’t know what they didn’t know.”
Some of the TravelOnly team that delivered valuable supplies to communities in Roatan, Honduras.
The week was also notable for its attention to TravelOnly’s charitable focus. In Roatan, Honduras, team members dropped off supplies for local children at West Bay Lodge, a hotel which sponsors a local school in nearby Flowers Bay; Crawfish Rock, meanwhile, was the destination for the Travel Agents Care team, which delivered supplies including pencils and toothbrushes to the local community.
Ian Elliott, TravelOnly’s vice-president, retail sales and business development, also confirmed to agents during the Saturday session that a bumper $9,395 had been raised to date by Travel Agents Care – with subsequent donations from NCL, Probert and Mary de Almeida bringing the total well over $10,000.
All about relationships
A whirlwind seven days came to an end with NCL’s Gain and Cutaia joining Patrick, Gregory and Ann Luciani, TravelOnly senior vice-president Sinthia Gawlak, and Elliott on the deck of the Getaway to toast the success of the Symposium, and the contribution of the associates present.
Of TravelOnly: Patrick Luciani, chairman and Ann Luciani, CFO.
The cruise, ultimately, reflected Gregory Luciani’s oft-repeated mantra that travel is primarily a relationship-driven business. “It’s the dining, the social aspect, doing the shore excursions together, being involved with the Travel Agents Care program, getting boots on the ground and working together on a common goal,” he said.
“Ultimately, the training is important… but more importantly it’s about connecting with people here, connecting with the suppliers. The more relationships you have with people, the more they’re going to be there to support you.”
Further information about TravelOnly is available at www.travelonly.com.