Cruise travel agents have been urged to consider growing internationally outside their local markets despite the fact that cross-border selling remains an unresolved issue for operators.
Royal Caribbean president Adam Goldstein told the Ace Columbus Day Cruise Convention that US agents were looking to Europe to grow their business.
And he said some UK agents might consider doing something similar, particularly to other English speaking markets, or geographically closer markets in Europe.
But when challenged by Opodo cruise boss Gary Brown, who said he was restricted by lines in his attempts to sell in the 10 markets in which it has a presence, Goldstein admitted:
“It is a real challenge for us. Our view is that the benefits we receive from distributing our products through travel agents in the US and UK we would like to see in different areas of the world.
“We would like to see well-trained, knowledgeable, motivated travel agents in the other European markets, in Latin American markets and others, pushing our cruises, helping the industry grow.
“If we simply allow the best travel agents in the existing markets from their existing bases to sell into those markets it’s, I would say, a genuine threat to the development of the kind of robust distribution systems in other markets that we would like to see. It’s a dilemma.
“We have right now people very capable of selling and prepared to sell right now right round the world. That’s pretty challenging particularly in the economic environment in which we are in.
“But we do not want to stunt the development of potentially hundreds of thousands of travel agents around the world who can grow in to what we have in the US and UK today. That’s what we are trying to work through right now.”
Goldstein said agents had to look to exploit the opportunities that technology is providing although he said technology alone was not the answer.
He told delegates that agents should use technology to enhance their existing services by improving their knowledge of each customer so they can be provided a more personalised service.
“Technology is not the end in itself, it’s the facilitator of what we are trying to achieve. It opens up possibilities to do what you want to do to make the most of your business model in ways we could not dream of even two years ago.
“This, to me, is one of the great opportunities. Use your business model and technology to improve the loyalty your customers have to you.
“Even in the US among the best travel agents it’s clear to me that their customers are not very loyal to them. There is a remarkable amount of buying around among consumers which complicates the concept of whose customer it is.
“If the best travel agents were to do a better job of keeping the customers they have they would be doing fine; in fact they would be growing by leaps and bounds because those people will bring in people they currently do not have.”
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