Travel agents are the “lifeblood of our company”, and they need to make sure they stay relevant to the changing needs of consumers, Norwegian Cruise Line boss Kevin Sheehan told the Abta travel convention.
In a session that showed snippets from the TV show Undercover Boss, which saw chief executive and president Sheehan go incognito and do the jobs of various crew members on one of Norwegian’s ships, he highlighted the importance of travel agents.
Sheehan said that the company’s strategy involved understanding “the importance of travel agents as the lifeblood of our company, and we want to make sure our agents know that we care.”
He said that the cruise line was providing plenty of marketing materials to help agents sell better, but added that agents “need to stay relevant as things move forward. You can’t go backwards.”
Sheehan said he came up with about 20 things he wanted to change about the ships or the way they were run after going on Undercover Boss. One of his ideas was to scrap the ice rinks, partly because he saw that it was back-breaking work for the crew and also because he felt the ice rinks were not up to the same quality as the rest of the ship.
When asked what impact the Costa Concordia disaster had on Norwegian, Sheehan replied: “I think when the incident first happened, there was a little bit of first-time cruisers saying, ‘gee, I should wait for things to settle down’.”
However, he said that after three to four weeks following the disaster, bookings went back up, adding that companies need to be resilient.
“It’s like a boxer – someone’s going to be punching you somewhere, but that’s the world we live in,” he said.
“Nothing is going to be consistent. There’s always going to be something that unsettles you so you have to be proactive and anticipate it.”