Travel advisors who specialize in cruises have another option to help them build (or rebuild) their business – on their terms.
The masterminds behind Travel Professionals International (TPI) have launched a brand new host agency that specializes in cruise vacations.
Cruise CEO, the new company is called, is backed by TPI Founder Morris Chia, TPI CEO Zeina Gedeon and TPI's National Director of Sales and Marketing Caroline Hay, who will transition into President and CEO of the new brand.
“The cruise industry continues to grow and it’s time we had that focused agency space dedicated to cruise sellers in the Canadian markets,” said Hay, who, alongside Gedeon, shared details about the new company at a virtual press conference on Tuesday (June 15).
What is considered Canada’s first and Virtuoso’s only cruise-focused host agency in North America, Cruise CEO is a subsidiary of Independent Agency Services (TPI’s parent company) and will operate as an incorporated, stand-alone brand.
Cruising is “back on track”
Hay, with 28 years of advisor, cruise BDM, product development, management, franchise and business owner experience, has had this idea in her back pocket for several years now.
As one who has sailed some 80 times on a cruise ship, she has seen the sector grow “exponentially” every year – even as the industry pauses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The cruise industry is getting back on track,” Hay said. “Reported bookings are stronger every single day and we know that many cruise-focused travel advisors are interested in aligning themselves with business partners that share their passion.”
Members, who operate as independent contractors, take on the title of “CEO,” which can mean different things, from “Chief Executive Officer” to “Commission Earning Opportunities” to “Cruise Every Ocean” (or river) to “Chief Experience Officer.”
“Cruise CEO is not a one-size-fits all host agency,” Hay explained. “We allow our CEOs to choose what is right for them, empower them to run their business as they wish and encourage them to embrace a mindset of being CEO of their business.”
But the brand, supported by an outward wave logo, was truly built with the frontline cruise seller in mind – not agents who, perhaps, sell a couple of cruises annually.
After running focus groups with both advisors and suppliers, the team “uncovered a gap” in the market, discovering a community of cruise agents that were determining how their business should look on the other side of the pandemic.
“When COVID hit, we started getting calls from brick and mortars that closed down, and for whatever reason, a lot of them were cruise,” Gedeon said.
“This is something that nobody has done and we thought it would be a great opportunity – especially for Canadians.”
Choice & flexibility
When an agent joins Cruise CEO, they gain full access to Virtuoso, as well as other benefits, such as training, partner reach and marketing tools to trigger sales growth.
The idea is to offer a fully-customized contract that serves each CEOs own needs, Hay said.
This start with flexibility – Cruise CEO aims to empower agents to navigate their business without being locked into “one-sided” or exclusive long-term contracts.
They are given choices: agents can use Cruise CEO’s CRM and brand or their own; contracts run in three, six and 12-month terms and there’s no exclusivity clause.
“If someone wants to align with us to book cruises and keep the rest of their business or own credentials, that is absolutely fine with us,” Hay said.
“No commission crumbs”
CEOs can also earn top-tier commissions on everything they sell, putting more moolah in their pockets while benefitting from Virtuoso, Hay added.
“There are no commission crumbs to be found at Cruise CEO,” Hay said (crumbs, referring to what’s left for agents after a franchise, agency owner or host agency reaps the rewards).
“We only serve the full cake.”
The company’s commission model was built on a recognition that cruise sellers, today, earn low splits on bookings, Hay explained.
Agents that sell $45,000 and above in commissions on “Tier 1” cruise partners receive 100% commission; 80% on “Tier 2” partners; and 70% on all other business (ie: land vacations, hotels, excursions).
Agents selling cruises at $10-$45,000 commissionable revenue levels receive 90% commission on Tier 1 partners; 80% on Tier 2; and 70% on all other business.
Tier 1 partners include Royal Caribbean Group’s companies, Norwegian Group’s companies, AmaWaterways, Uniworld and Hurtigruten.
All other cruise lines sit at Tier 2.
“We have selected specific cruise lines and partners to make sure we have a full suite of opportunities for our advisors to sell,” Hay said.
Sales and marketing tools are a key component, too. As CEOs, agents can access customizable social tiles, marketing calendars, promotion templates and marketing and selling strategies.
They can also access Virtuoso’s MyMarketing hub of tools, social media solutions and free photo libraries.
Regular training, workshops and town halls come with the package, and members can look forward to attending CEO at Sea, an annual conference kicking off in June 2022.
The backend tech includes a “purser’s desk portal,” cruise booking platforms, real-time sales and commission tracking, credit card processing and automated forms.
“We are here to deliver that choice to those who wish to specialize and give them the flexibility they want and the income they’re entitled to,” Hay said.
Not the "cruise arm" of TPI
But for the record, Cruise CEO is not “the cruise arm” of TPI, the team emphasized.
TPI and Cruise CEO’s compensations differ, Hay said, and while one might see the two host agencies competing with each another, “only a handful of [TPI] advisors” are switching over.
“We want to grow,” Hay said. “This is purposely why we have set things up separately.”
“We are very excited about this progressive brand we’re bringing to the market.”
For more information on Cruise CEO, go to cruiseceo.com or email Caroline Hay at email@example.com.
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