Having access to cruise and hotel suppliers during a well-planned schedule was the big draw for travel agents taking part in Transat’s innovativee Terre & Mer seminar, recently held on board the Norwegian Escape.
PAX surveyed the 70 or so travel agents present to get their first-hand impressions from this week at sea.
A winning combo
It is undeniably the combination of cruises and hotels that appealed to the majority of the agents, who enjoyed exclusive access to various suppliers. This event allowed participants to enjoy the cruise experience of their clients, allowing them to become even better equipped to sell it afterwards.
During the seminar, five hotel suppliers (Karisma Hotels, Melia International Hotels, Melia Cuba, Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts and AMResorts) and four cruise suppliers (Costa Cruises, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival) presented their products, in addition to presentations by Transat including the South collections and the specificities of group itineraries.
Among the agents in attendance were:
Melissa Alexander, TripCentral.ca, Wolfville, NS: “I registered for this seminar because I was having a little trouble selling cruises. I’d never been on one and it’s difficult to get that information across to a client, to answer their questions if I don’t know what the answer is either. I got all the insight I was looking for, and then some. It was very enlightening.”
Kristy McDonald, TripCentral.ca, Dundas, ON: “I’d never had the opportunity to go on a cruise, but I do notice a high-level of walk-ins for cruises. I was looking forward to that segment more specifically, but the land portion of the seminar was also informative. I wasn’t doing many high-end sales before because I didn’t know the product well, but after the presentations and round tables with these five brands, I feel like I have a better grasp of what these luxury properties look like and which of my clients would enjoy them. They’ll be in the back of my mind whenever I get that specific customer.
Amanda Cook, Marlin Travel, Bradford, ON: “I personally signed up for this because I see a lot of people walk into our store asking what the feel of Norwegian is and what the general feel of cruising is. Being on this ship will help me to answer those questions more adequately. I can go back and positively sell cruises, especially on the Norwegian Escape. I don’t get to travel a lot so, when I do, I try to get as much out of it as I can; the combination of land and cruise segments really motivated me. This was perfect, I’m so glad I did this”.
Sara Zubiack, TripCentral.ca, Kingston, NS: “I appreciated the emphasis on how Transat can bundle things together and the brands they offer in terms of groups and cruising, which I think is a fantastic way to bridge people from the all-inclusive land vacation over into the cruise with a sense of comfort. It also makes it a little easier for travel agents to sell that kind of product as a whole. I also enjoyed hearing about brands I wasn’t particularly familiar with, just to be able to offer different options to my clients. It was a very informative seminar. I would absolutely sign up for the second edition.”
“We really wanted to highlight our cruise package programme, but also mirror it to what we already do with hotels and lack packages, specifically to the South,” Nicole Bursey, commercial director for Transat, told PAX. “There are some agents here that sell more cruise than land, some that sell more land than cruise, and there are new agents as well. We felt it was the best way to emphasize both types of trips. We asked very specific suppliers and partners to participate and present what they offer.”
Regarding the main lessons which she would like to see travel agents take away from the seminar, Bursey listed three.
“One: booking a cruise is just as easy as booking a land package with Transat,” she said. “Two: where hotels are concerned, there are a lot of choices out there and it’s better to become highly specialized in a handful of properties rather than knowing a little bit about everything. We presumed that if we concentrated the agents’ focus, they would be more likely to become experts in particular brands.
“Three: that Transat is always happy to talk about the extent of our products directly to travel agents, to offer support and assistance, even marketing opportunities. It’s always a wonderful chance for our staff to get to know the agents better. Some agents liked speaking with Transat staff from various departments like customer care centre, groups, marketing, sales and operations. We found that groups, specifically, got a lot of questions and attention.”
And with Transat's continued focus on the travel agent community, Bursey said that she hopes to see the Surf and Turf seminar become an annual event.
“We’ve always been very much a retail-focused company from day one. It’s the heart of our business and we try to stay really close to travel agents, supporting them, trying to understand better what they need from us, making things as simple as possible for them, ultimately just being present for them. We also spend a lot of time and money on our training academy and FAM trips, including this Surf & Turf, which I hope will become annual. We’ve already had a few cruise lines mention which ship they’d like to have us on, so stay tuned!”