Norwegian Cruise Line: Advisors and no discounting are keys to sales success

MIAMI BEACH — Norwegian Cruise Line leaders at Travel Weekly’s CruiseWorld last week said travel agent sales are leading the comeback from the pandemic and that the line’s refusal to discount cruises has something to do with that.

In a chat on stage between Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) CEO Frank Del Rio and Travel weekly editor in chief Arnie Weissmann, Del Rio noted that most of the company’s business comes from the agency community, “and we’re doing better than we’ve ever done before.”

“We see demand for the second half of 2022 and beyond at record levels and at record prices, which should be music to your ears because your commissions are based on those record prices,” Del Rio said.

No-discounting policy

In a subsequent chat with NCLH presidents, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) CEO Harry Sommer told Weissmann that travel agency sales as a percentage of overall business had increased every month for the past five months. The cruise line’s no-discounting policy is a factor, Sommer said.

“The results we see are fantastic, so I’m not surprised that some of our competition that sells cruises for $299 is having a hard time engaging the trade community,” Sommer said.

In a video message to travel advisors in October, Royal Caribbean Group CEO Richard Fain said a surge in cruise bookings was mostly coming from the internet and not travel advisors. Fain noted that many travel advisors had to cut back on staff and marketing during the shutdown, and that his hope was that travel advisor sales would pick up as more advisors returned to work.

“We need you, our travel partners, to reach our full potential,” Fain said in the video.

At CruiseWorld, Del Rio also said he expects more travel advisors to rejoin the workforce in the coming months, but he added that discounting is a barrier to agent sales.

“We’re not chasing load factors through low prices,” Del Rio said. “I see the low prices that some cruises are selling at, and it is shocking to me.

“We will spend whatever we have to spend to fill the vessel without discounting,” Del Rio continued. “Discounting is not fair to our shareholders, and it’s not fair for our travel agents to get a $6 check. If you sell one of our cruises, you’re going to make lots of money, partly because of our bundling strategy. Many of the elements that your guests typically spend on a cruise ship are commissionable to you.” 

NCL enables agents to earn commissions on bundles they sell before the cruise — drink packages, specialty-dining packages, WiFi, etc.

The advisors who are engaged are “selling more than ever,” Del Rio said. He said that during the pandemic, some advisors left travel for other industries or they retired.

“We think that once they see that the cruise industry is back, they’re going to come back, too. They’ll answer the bell,” Del Rio said.

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