Norwegian Cruise Line is making a concerted effort to strengthen its relationships with travel agents. // © 2011 Norwegian Cruise Line
Agents can visit www.partnersfirst.ncl.com
to view a video of Andy Stuart, executive vice president of global sales and passenger services, discussing the Partners First initiative.
Norwegian Cruise Line recently announced the Partners First initiative, referring to it as the company’s corporate philosophy. Andy Stuart, executive vice president of global sales and passenger services, said the cruise line is putting partners first in three key areas: investment in long-term travel partner success; a focus on being easy to do business with; and a commitment to travel partners concerning direct business.
The last ingredient is considered the key one by many agents, and Stuart made a commitment that Norwegian will not use customer data from travel partners to solicit direct bookings.
“We will not contact our partners’ clients to book directly with us,” said Stuart. “Your clients are your clients. And we ask every person who calls if they are working with a travel agent. Also, our direct business has no price advantage.”
Relations with agents have been somewhat strained following statements in Norwegian’s Oct. 26 filing with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission in a preliminary prospectus for going public, in which the company said it had grown its direct sales from 13.3 percent of its net ticket revenue to 27 percent in the first nine months of 2010 and expected to further increase its mix of direct business in the future.
However, under Partners First the company has committed $16 million toward new customizable marketing tools for agents, increased marketing support and improved communications. Norwegian is also investing in its outside sales team and expanding its inside sales team by 45 percent to increase the line’s reach and ensure all travel partners have contacts to help them grow their businesses.
Norwegian is also focused on streamlining the booking process and is investing $7 million in new technology booking improvements for travel partners, along with guaranteeing all rate quotes, offering partners a competitive advantage with promotional groups and creating an email address (AskVivian@ncl.com), so that agent operational questions go directly to the company’s vice president of passenger services, Vivian Ewart.
Norwegian has hired a dedicated trade agency, R&R Partners, to handle all aspects of the company’s trade marketing and programs. R&R has handled aspects of Norwegian’s trade program since 2008.
A new trade advertising campaign focused on Partners First also launched in May, featuring actual travel partners and underlining their knowledge and commitment to their clients.
“It’s important that our travel partners understand that Norwegian is a new cruise line today with the entire company focused on guest satisfaction and putting our partners first,” said Stuart.