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Mark Conroy, one of luxury cruising’s most prominent figures, has been named head of Silversea Cruises’ Miami office as managing director of the Americas. Conroy is well-known for his agent-friendly stance in his years of leading Regent Seven Seas Cruises and when he chaired Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) from 2002 to 2004. Some of his warmest memories center on his stint as vice president of sales for the legendary Royal Viking Line.
Agents have responded with pleasure to Silversea’s announcement and, indeed, stronger relationships with the distribution system are prominent in Conroy’s plans for the brand.
According to Conroy, his recent time working as a consultant has given him a fresh perspective that, combined with his years of experience in the industry, will help him lead Silversea to more success. His concentration on travel agent programs with CLIA fuels his resolve for Silversea to work more closely with the trade.
“I don't think we're as visible to agents as we should be,” he said. “I want to build up momentum for Silver Muse [which will enter the fleet in early 2017], and agents are more important than ever with the expanding fleet.”
Conroy plans to offer win-win programs to incentivize agents, along with clear information about the fare inclusions that help them upsell premium cruise clients.
“We need to tell the agents that we love them, offer dedicated agent appreciation time, give them new benefits and provide new tools for agencies and front-line agents,” he said.
By the end of February, Conroy had started going out among the key accounts for Silversea to gather advice and kick off closer relationships.
“We have around 5,000 producing agents,” he said. “It’s a nice mix of people I know very well and those I don’t know yet.”
This is the second time Silversea has had a Conroy setting close relationships with agents — Conroy’s wife, Marilyn Conroy, was very strong on agent training and input for Silversea when she served as the line’s senior vice president of sales from 2004 to 2009.
With eight ships and considerable variety in the expanding product, Conroy says it is important to give agents the tools they need to clearly qualify clients and sell Silversea’s various products. He notes the brand’s extension into luxury expedition ships — part of a tradition similar to Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ use of Hanseatic and Minerva — which has the intention of retaining customers for bucket-list cruises. He adds that the market has changed favorably in the past couple of years to stress features and benefits rather than discounts.
Conroy says that Silversea’s European style and flavor and its intimate ship size underline the company’s brand distinction, along with its exceptional staff.
“At our first meeting, I told the staff to think out of box, have fun and have a laser focus on the customers: the agent, the consumer and our colleagues,” he said. “We have to serve all three.”