A value interpreter. What does that mean? To Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales for Royal Caribbean International, it means everything.
“I like to call travel professionals who are really great at their job ‘value interpreters.’”, Freed said last month at Cruise360 in Fort Lauderdale. “A value interpreter really can sit there and say, ‘Based on everything you’re wanting in a vacation, I have the best value for you, the best experience and it’s going to be this particular product, and this is the type of accommodation I think you’ll be looking for.’”
“Today, the consumer needs that role more than ever,” she continued. “There’s too much information and information overload causes consumer confusion. Once you have consumer confusion, people give up and go back to the same old vacation.” Freed’s last point is all too common – travelers want to do something new and exciting, but the overwhelming amount of destinations, suppliers, products, room categories and so on can just be too much. If they don’t have anyone to distil it all down to what they really want, when they should really go and, most importantly, what really fits into their budget, they’ll stick to what they know. It’s too easy, but also too boring.
If travelers don’t have a travel agent – or value interpreter – telling them what’s new, what’s exciting, they’ll miss out on incredible new experiences because they’re going to the same beach and staying at the same resort. And no one should miss out on new experiences like CocoCay, Royal Caribbbean’s private island, which they’re already seeing so much demand for.
“It’s the most incredible private island experience,” Freed said. “It previously existed as a private island of Royal Caribbean’s, but we added all these new wows. We added the pier – a big game changer. So often we’d have CocoCay on the itinerary but we’d have to tender, and sometimes the seas weren’t right to tender,” she explained. Without the pier, they couldn’t get their Oasis-class ships close enough to tender because of their grandiose size.
But now, the pier makes it easy to get travelers onto CocoCay to experience “a swim-up bar, slides, more slides, and more slides, and more thrills and more chills,” Freed described with a smile. There’s also a swimming pool that’s more than an acre big, plus the tallest slide in North America at 135-feet high. Don’t forget about Chill Island, made for relaxation, or South Beach, the place to be for volleyball, basketball, paddle boarding and more.
In order to share these new experiences with a solid client base, what should agents focus on in order to have close, loyal relationships with their clients who come back to them time and time again? “It’s not price,” Freed said. “Today, three out of five clients who buy a cruise or vacation from one travel partner go to another travel partner to buy their next vacation. So why do people cheat on their travel partner?” Freed said it’s not that they got bad service from their agent, and it also wasn’t that they got exceptional service from someone else. It’s that the client just felt indifference. They didn’t feel a connection and they didn’t feel that there was a relationship. “You’ve got to do the things that build relationships and create stickiness,” Freed said. And relying on email is not the way to do it. “Email is not a relationship builder – it’s a tool. It’s a monologue,” she said. But a phone conversation or a face-to-face conversation is a dialogue. “You’ve got to reach out and call people on a regular basis. Every three months you should be talking to your clients,” she said. And now with Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay on the horizon, you’ve got just the hook you need to pick up the phone and help your clients get there.