We all know that the travel agent profession is not dwindling away. No one knows that better than Camille Olivere, senior vice president of sales for Norwegian Cruise Line. In fact, “we’re seeing a lot of new agents come into the business, which is really exciting,” she said at CLIA’s Cruise360 event in April of this year.
“There are a lot of [people getting into it as] a second career, or people who may have taken an early retirement,” she said. “Or people are just not happy in their jobs, and they see something exciting in becoming a travel agent.”
So with this influx of new agents, many of which are part time, the biggest challenge according to Olivere is for Norwegian to get to all of these new agents and get them up to speed on the product so they can feel confident selling it. But Norwegian’s got some new agent initiatives to help with just that.
“The best way for people to understand the ships is to experience the ship firsthand,” Olivere said. “So we’re doing a lot more inaugurals than we ever have.” This big push for inaugurals means Norwegian is holding as many as five events when they have a new ship. Then when the ship does a turn, they invite 100 agents on board to enjoy lunch, tour the ship and get training on the product. “We have a lot of new ships coming and we really need to make sure agents understand our promotions,” Olivere said.
The new ships Norwegian is welcoming are the Norwegian Joy, coming to Seattle in late April. The arrival of this ship gives Norwegian two of the biggest, newest ships in the Alaska market. The ship will have a two-story viewing window, giving you a 180-degree view in the front of the ship from the comfort of an observation lounge with a full bar. “Imagine coming into the glaciers in Alaska, and you’re in the lounge with the viewing window, surrounded by the glaciers. It’s really, really spectacular,” Olivere said.
The second new ship Norwegian is eagerly anticipating is the Encore, coming to Miami in the fall. This ship will also have the incredible viewing window in the observation lounge, along with the largest race track at sea with curves that extend 13 feet over the side of the ship.
The promotion they’re most focused on is Free at Sea, which they now offer on their award-winning Hawaiian itinerary. Norwegian’s Free at Sea promotion bundles many onboard experiences into the ticket price, which is great for agents because it allows you to make more commission on the sale and great for your clients because they get more included in their package. “It’s really a big win,” Olivere said. “But it’s a complicated promotion.” She clarified by explaining that if a traveler is shopping on their own online, they might not realize that if they book a balcony, they get three offers, but if they book an inside stateroom, they only get one. “It really takes a travel agent to walk them through that and explain it,” Olivere said. The nature of this promotion shows the need that Norwegian has for agents – they need them to be able to understand the offer and navigate the details of it to craft the best experience for their clients.
All of these new initiatives and decisions that Norwegian makes are through the lens of a travel agent, according to Olivere: “Before we make any final decisions, we think about how it’s going to impact our travel partners,” she said. “We want to make sure we’re doing everything possible to make things simple for them.” This laser-like focus on travel agents only means good things for Norwegian Cruise Lines and agents – both new and veteran. It means a deeper understanding of Norwegian for agents as well as incredible experiences onboard for travelers.