Cruise line’s UK managing director reveals strategy to ensure sales keep snowballing. Harry Kemble reports

Eamonn Ferrin takes inspiration from US business magnate Warren Buffett when devising a plan to improve his team’s performance.

Multibillionaire investor Buffett, the third-richest man in the world according to Forbes, once said: “Life is like a snowball. The important thing is finding wet snow and a really long hill.”

Ferrin uses this maxim whenever he takes on a new role. He became Norwegian Cruise Line’s vice-president and managing director for the UK, Ireland, Israel, South Africa and the Middle East last year.

With Buffett’s words in mind, he immediately set about laying the foundations. He recruited two business development managers, Helen Green and Judy York, simplified the line’s sales promotions and, in the words of NCL boss Harry Sommer, “reinvigorated” trade partnerships.

Ferrin hopes to make the day-to-day sales operation “self-sustaining” by creating a snowball effect.

“We are definitely engaging with more agents than we were,” Ferrin says. “That engagement is daily now. I try to do these things to build momentum. Momentum is a powerful thing if you are building relationships that are self-sustaining.”

Wave performance

Ferrin claims sales have been going “phenomenally well” and are “much better year on year”.

His confidence was backed up by Sommer last November, who said Ferrin’s UK and Ireland team was in “a much better position” compared with two years ago when Norwegian Bliss launched in April 2018.

Looking back at last year, Ferrin says uncertainty, not least around Brexit, had led to a “tough first quarter”.

In a bid to improve on last year’s wave booking period, the line has knocked 30% off all cruise fares since mid-January and decided against a plan to update customer offers every two weeks, as was originally planned.

Ferrin adds: “We make sure agents have all the details they need. Some [trade] relationships are hugely strong, but there are others that we have not dealt with as much.

“We have an open-door policy [with agents]. How we cooperate with our partners is in our DNA.

“Our business is built from our agent community.”

Funding support

Ferrin and his team encourage agents to submit marketing plans and vow to fund 50% of the cost if the proposal is deemed viable. “A lot of people have bought into this,” adds Ferrin, who estimates “between 50 and 100 businesses” have taken advantage.

NCL’s first Leonardo-class ship will go on sale in the second quarter this year, which Ferrin expects to prompt a fresh flurry of marketing proposals from agencies.

He also hopes more than 5,000 agents will see one of three NCL vessels docking in ports across the UK and Ireland this year – with about 100 agents on each of the 50 visits.

“It is a great opportunity,” says Ferrin. “This year’s ship visit programme is our biggest by far.”

One of the three UK-based NCL vessels, Norwegian Star, is going to sail out of Southampton this summer, while Norwegian Jade and Norwegian Escape will call at other UK and Irish ports including Belfast, Liverpool and Portland.

Ship visits help agents “understand what is unique about NCL”, says Ferrin.

They also put the line at the forefront of agents’ minds, which in turn helps keep sales rolling in . . . much like Buffett’s snowball.