Cruise West Launches Virtual Rep

Small-ship line to provide online travel agent support

By: Theresa Norton Masek

Cruise West, the Seattle-based small-ship line that eliminated its outside sales staff earlier this year, has launched a Web site to provide electronic travel agent support.

“This is the primary method of taking our message to the travel agent community,” said Jerre Fuqua, Cruise West’s vice president of marketing, sales and reservations.

The site went live Aug. 27, and Cruise West hoped for 300 agent registrations the first week. Instead, they received more than 1,500 by Sept. 9.

A $50 bonus commission coupon is given to new registrants and payable upon completion of the first booking.

The agent-only site recognizes registered agents and includes information that pertains to the agent’s consortium or group, whether it’s AAA, Virtuoso or LTG, for example.

The site includes many marketing tools, including a basic marketing plan for a simple promotion, sales tips on targeting Cruise West prospects, and ways to order brochures, shells, postcards, videos, even stuffed bears outfitted to reflect a particular destination.

The site allows agents to customize postcards and shells for 10 cents per piece and a setup fee of $25 to $35. Agents can write their own message on the postcard or use Cruise West’s prepared copy. Agency or consortium logos can also be added.

Agents also can sign up for Cruise West’s Small-Ship Partners certification program or the new Bookings Earn Added Rewards (BEAR) program.

BEAR allows agents to group departure dates of the same itinerary in order to achieve bonus levels more quickly.

Another section gives information on Cruise West fam trips.

One of the newer technological features of Cruise West’s site is online training.

“It’s live and it’s interactive,” Fuqua said. “Now we can schedule a number of training seminars specifically for AAA or Virtuoso or the agent community at large. All agents need is a high-speed Internet connection and a telephone. We can stream the content to them and they can ask questions in real time, just as if a DSM was standing at the head of the class.”