One way for travel advisors to rebuild their cruise business: Travel Weekly

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Joanna Jenshel

Last week, Richard Fine, CEO of Royal Caribbean Group, got real with travel consultants: He told them they’re losing renewed interest in cruises, with the bulk of sales at Royal coming from the internet. He said it was time for agents to rebuild their businesses.

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Shortly thereafter, I spoke with Vicki Freed, Senior Vice President of Sales, Commerce Support and Services at Royal Caribbean International, about one of her favorite topics: helping travel advisors build and sell collections.

Fred has long suggested that consultants focus more on putting together groups to help build their businesses. And while it might be cheap to talk, Fred put her money where her mouth was last month. She’s collected her own cruise group, from her mates playing pickle ball.

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During the pandemic, Fred ate a pickle ball in her neighborhood and said one of the guys suggested they all go on a cruise. Fred told them that Royal Caribbean has pickle ball courts on board. “And that was the hook,” she said.

“In five days, I’ve booked 12 suites on a weekend cruise on the Freedom of the Seas,” Fred told me. “I could have sold more, but the wings ran out.”

Fred said the group played pickle ball every morning. They left the ship when they were on Perfect Day on CocoCay, Royal’s private island, where the group had purchased cabanas. They also added on their three nights specialty food package.

“Now everyone wants to repeat the group,” she said. She added that those who could not attend the last cruise were in contact with her for about a second.

Groups are a good way to build a cruise business

Relevant to Fain’s comment, of course, is that clusters are a good way for consultants to rebuild their businesses. And while it might sound easier said than done, Fred believes travel consultants should “take something you love and make a set out of it,” as she did with the Buckeyes.

Doing so means letting go of the idea that group building is hard.

“Yeah, if you’re putting together a band, there’s a complexity: you need meeting space, you need performance space, you need sound, technology and all of that,” Fred said. “But there are a lot of group kits: book kits, craft kits. We do a lot of craft kits; people love crafting, and they sit in the conference room and bring all their craft tools.”

She said one of the advisors is writing Girl Scouts and their mothers.

“The fun Girl Scouts group made it and then they go visit the local Girl Scouts classes in [Caribbean] She said.

Fred suggested that counselors start with small groups of people, as she did with a pickle ball group, and let them grow.

“We just want to help them put their toe back into the water,” she said of travel advisors. “They don’t have to swim in the Olympics. They can just start small.”

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