Partnership 2.0

NCL announces travel partner initiative

By: Ana Figueroa

As the transaction between Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and Apollo Management, LP (Apollo) nears completion and the infusion of $1 billion comes into the company, NCL has announced plans for a major travel agent initiative called Partnership 2.0.

The Partnership 2.0 initiative will involve changes to the way NCL does business to strengthen its relationships with travel partners at all levels. The program includes faster payment of group commission, quicker problem resolution by establishing a fully empowered resolution desk, simplifying pricing quotes, enhancing reservations agents’ product knowledge, faster credit card processing, improved credit card procedures, and paying commissions electronically. The initiative has been driven by feedback from travel partners and has been enabled by Apollo’s billion dollar investment in NCL as well as Star Cruises’ continued commitment.

“Partnership 2.0 is designed to make NCL better partners with the travel agency community,” said Colin Veitch, NCL’s president and CEO. “We have taken a look at the way we work with travel agents and identified key areas for improvement, ranging from initiatives, which will enhance our relationships at a headquarter level, to major changes that will further improve the working experience at the front-line agent level.”

Some of the details include the following changes:

Group Commissions: NCL will now process group commissions five weeks earlier with processing commencing seven days prior to sailing; Resolution Desk: There will be a seven-day per week desk manned by experienced agents with specific expertise who will be empowered to resolve issues. Desk will be run by 20-year NCL veteran fully empowered and authorized to quickly and efficiently resolve issues; simplifying pricing quotes: NCL has already reduced promo codes from over 1,000 to 32 to ensure travel agents get the same price quote every time they call in.

Additionally, NCL will double recurrent training for its reservations agents to improve product knowledge. Agents will go through enhanced training on policies, pricing, promotions and the product; NCL will also upgrade its systems to greatly speed up credit card processing time. Any declined credit card will receive a call directly to the booking agent. By the second quarter of 2008, NCL will be processing commissions and other partner payments electronically.

Aspects of the Partnership 2.0 initiative have been already implemented with more to come every month in 2008. NCL plans to build two new third generation Freestyle Cruising ships for delivery in 2010.