Bookings are continuing, and travel agents will play a big part in the cruise industry’s revival.
Royal Caribbean’s Vicki Freed, SVP Sales, took part in our Facebook Live series of one on one chats on Wednesday, chatting with TravelPulse Canada Editor in Chief John Kirk.
“We are seeing sales,” Freed said. “Obviously not to the volume that we normally would see them. But people are still booking. Are they booking because they have future cruise credits? Yes, that’s part of it. But we are seeing new net bookings every week; people who want to come back to cruising.
“The good thing about Americans and Canadians is we have short memories and we want our vacations, we need our vacations. Once we can reassure the client, the guest, that it is a safe and clean and healthy environment, people are going to come back,” she said.
Freed said programs such as RCL Cares, which aims to help agents navigate the tricky relief waters of COVID-19 and apply for government help, are “part of our DNA.”
“We want to be somebody they can lean on, they can depend on, so we can help navigate forms and banks and such. There’s money available for travel advisors and we want to … help them navigate this”
Freed said Royal Caribbean also is standing by agents when it comes to comissions.
“For clients who have been cancelling who have been fully paid, if we suspend on them, meaning if we cancel cruises like we just have through June 12 … we give your clients 100% refund or 125% future cruise credit. And on both of those we protect your commission 100%.
“Then we have another program called Cruise with Confidence. That’s extended all the way to Sept. 1. If your clients are booked and fully paid and they decide for 48 hours before the cruise that they want to cancel, we give them a 100% future cruise credit and we still protect the travel partners’ commission. So we protect you on the cancelled bookings and then when the clients re-use their future cruise credit we give you commission a second time.”
Royal Caribbean’s return to the seas will take time, Free said.
“I don’ t think we’ll introduce all 26 ships at once. We’ll do it gradually and make sure the protocols are right. The new to cruise market will be a more challenging market but we think over time it will all work out.”
Freed said the best way for Royal Caribbean to reintroduce cruising to people is through travel advisors.
“They’re the gatekeepers to vacationers. So, when people are looking for a getaway, when the travel advisor can recommend RC or any cruise for that matter, people put a lot of trust in what their travel advisor has to say. In many cases the client really does want to consider a cruise but they just need someone to reassure them and tell them what the protocols are that the cruise lines are taking.
“The travel agents are going to be our secret weapon,” she said. “But they’ve always been our secret weapon.”
For more of VIcki Freed’s comments, check our Facebook page. And stay tuned for more special industry guests in the coming days.
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