As you read this, dozens of your fellow Canadian travel agents are sailing somewhere between Grand Cayman and Cozumel, taking part in Transat's annual Surf n' Turf seminar, getting the latest updates and sales strategies direct from the source.
This year, the conference is taking place aboard MSC Cruises' MSC Seaside, and approximately 15 Transat supplier representatives are accompanying the 84 travel counsellors from Quebec and Ontario to learn more about each other's products as part of Transat's annual training event.
Five cruise partners are present, which include MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, and Princess Cruises. Six hotel partners are also involved, which include Palladium, Melia Internacional, Melia Cuba, Ocean H10, Hard Rock Hotels and Resorts, and AMResorts.
In addition, a dozen members of the Transat team are all hands on deck, to ensure operations run smoothly this week.
Three years running
Now in its third year, the formula for the 2019 Surf n' Turf seminar is essentially the same as the one that prevailed aboard the Norwegian Escape in 2017 and the Royal Princess in 2018.
"Every supplier is invited to present the main characteristics of their brand, their targeted customers, their promotions and new products," said Nicole Bursey, commercial director, Transat. "One day is specifically dedicated to group travel. On this day, Transat representatives present the Transat benefits for the groups, and then each of the suppliers gives advisors information and tips to increase their performance in this very lucrative niche."
This year, Transat decided to add individual sessions with suppliers, in addition to group training.
"These one-on-one meetings allow advisors who wish to deepen their business relationship with a particular supplier and obtain more specific and personalized information to do so," explained Julie Sareault, sales manager for the Quebec and Ontario.
A varied experience
As it should be, the Surf & Turf seminar gives advisors the opportunity to discover hotel properties offered by Transat.
Consultants were able to visit the beautiful new Excellence Oyster Bay and the equally attractive Melia Braco, Jamaica. Later on in the conference, they'll visit Secrets Aura and Sunscape Sabor, two AMResorts properties in Cozumel.
"Counselors experience a wide variety of theoretical and practical experiences during the week: they attend vendor classroom training and have one-on-one meetings with them," Sareault said. "They make guided tours of hotels during stopovers. At the same time, they also have free time to enjoy the ship like any other cruiser. Yesterday for example, they were able to live the normal course of a passenger during the stopover in Grand Cayman!"
Sareault welcomes the mix of junior and senior advisors in this year's seminar group. For her part, Bursey is surprised at the high proportion of participants who are on their very first cruise this year, delighted that Transat is giving these advisors the opportunity to live these experiences that will facilitate their future cruise sales.
The proportion of advisors who are on their first cruise with MSC Cruises is also important, she notes.
"We look forward to seeing these newer advisors working with their customers, now that they have experienced the product themselves and realize how easy it is to sell cruises with Transat!" Bursey exclaimed.
Bursey also says she sees Surf & Turf's success with these advisors as confirmation of their interest in how Transat is now marketing cruises - as part of turnkey packages.
"Transat excels at creating vacation packages for more than 30 years. What we wanted to do four years ago is to make cruising as easy as selling land-based packages to help advisors convince customers who have never cruised before to try the cruise."
While cruising takes the spotlight during the Surf & Turf seminar, Transat feels it is equally important for advisors to be more aware of its land programs, too. The promotion of one should not be to the detriment of the other; it's the very principle of Surf & Turf!
"It's really a week that highlights the entire offer of Transat," Bursey said.
Our hosts specify that the organization of the event represents a considerable effort for their teams. But all this work is worth it, according to them.
It therefore seems likely that a fourth annual Surf & Turf seminar will be back for 2020, but it remains to be seen which cruise line will join the ranks of MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Princess Cruises as next year's host.
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