by Marco Ferraz, President of CLIA ABREMAR BRASIL
Investing in a specialization and professional qualification for selling cruises is fundamental to the success of the work of a travel agent. With its guaranteed return, the sector offers the best commission in the market – in Brazil alone, cruises paid R$ 90 million in commission in 2015 – and is still little known in its entirety (there are few agencies that specialize in our segment).
Because it is a complete package, the product still raises many doubts in the minds of consumers and is full of curiosities. Although many travellers feel tempted to reserve their holidays on their own, nothing can substitute the benefits offered by a travel agent, who can even help the most experienced tourists by presenting the best offers, promotions and guarantees, and which routes are best at which time of year, etc. According to CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association), seven in every ten travellers (70%) in the world use a travel agent for planning their cruise holiday.
That is why the preparedness of this professional is essential: they must identify the profile of the consumer and offer the most suitable option in order not to frustrate expectations. They need to know the cruise destinations, the cruise seasons around the world, the operators, the ships available, the affordable products and other details that make a difference in the customer’s choice. They must also know how the dynamics of the ship functions and in what ways the guests can optimize their time aboard by taking advantage of every inch or it and the service offered.
All the trust placed in the partner agent; the on-board amenities; the splendid view; the entertainment; the food; the opportunity to get to know various cities with the comfort of not needing to pack your bags or get involved with transfers; and the safety of cruises is going to mean that the customer takes maximum advantage and wants to repeat the experience many more times.
It may seem a lot, but it’s not. It is precisely this dedication and full know-how that will provide an unforgettable experience for the cruise passenger. To facilitate a little what I have said so far, I have come up with seven different reasons why a tourist should use a travel agent when buying a cruise. It is worth carefully looking into the subject and showing your customer that you and your company can deliver all of these requirements, and more!
1. A cruise encyclopaedia: travel agents are trained and certified in cruises in general and help in choosing the products and destinations, which is of immense benefit to those who are interested. They must have replies for everything, from the type of ship that is appropriate for the family to the chefs who are best prepared to serve gluten-free dishes, for example. In addition to helping with the planning for each customer, they can also settle any doubts that may arise along the way.
2. A real business: because they plan and arrange several cruises every week, travel agents normally need to have their finger on the pulse of the industry and so be aware of the best offers and discounts. Some may even have access to cruise line discounts that are not available to consumers. What is even more important is that there should be no additional cost for the traveller because they use a travel agent.
3. Saving time and money: after looking for the best rates, a travel agent can also help free up another valuable resource for customers – time. Passengers do not need to spend hours looking for the best offers or destinations. Travel agents should be extremely experienced, have the biggest number of offers and information in real time and do all the hard work, whether that is finding the perfect cabin or planning excursions.
4. One step forward: the agent should assist and advise travellers by planning all the minute details of their trip before they embark. Instead of worrying about every detail of the cruise travellers can enjoy an almost worry-free experience, where reservation and details were taken care of beforehand.
5. The right resource: travel agents are the best option when it is a question of solving unforeseen problems or mistakes. They can, for example, avoid the traveller wasting precious holiday time because of lost baggage, cancelled excursions, travel delays and much more.
6. A trip made-to-measure: a travel agent can create the perfect travel experience, based on the preferences, tastes and expectations of the traveller. To do so they need to be always armed with the most up-to-date information about how to find the right ship, the appropriate itinerary and the location of the cabin in order to point cruise passengers in the right direction.
7. Real time updates: travel agents have access to cruise line updates in real time and receive information on-line. This serves as a compass, providing information about everything from new spa offers to changes in the ship’s itinerary. This also helps travellers take full advantage of the most recent on-board offers, on-shore excursions or any other last minute plan.
About Marco Ferraz: With more than 30 years experience in the tourism sector, Marco Ferraz has been the CEO of CLIA ABREMAR BRASIL (Brazilian Maritime Cruise Association) since December 2014. Marco began working in the tourism industry in 1980 with Monark Turismo, and prior to taking over as the CEO of CLIA ABREMAR, he was the CEO of Braztoa (the Brazilian Tourism Operators Association) for four years, and it was while he was in charge that the partnership between WTM Latin America and Braztoa got underway.
The opinions expressed in this text are the author’s opinion and do not necessarily reflect the position of WTM Latin America.