Agents need to be cruise ex­perts

Ob­serv­ing that agent knowl­edge is a key driv­ing fac­tor to­wards client de­ci­sion-mak­ing, it is only im­per­a­tive that travel agents in ma­ture mar­kets like In­dia be­come cruise ex­perts or oth­er­wise get left be­hind in the race.

TravTalk - India - - GUEST COLUMN - Peter Kol­lar Head of In­ter­na­tional Train­ing & De­vel­op­ment, Cruise Lines In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion (CLIA)

As cruis­ing con­tin­ues to grow in In­dia, it’s an ideal time to have a look at ma­ture mar­kets that were once in In­dia’s cur­rent po­si­tion and learn from them. Firstly, the two big­gest mar­kets of cruis­ers are from the US and UK. Com­bined they con­trib­ute to al­most half of the cruise pas­sen­gers around the world (over 13 mil­lion pas­sen­gers), and it’s no co­in­ci­dence that they have also been the two pi­o­neers of the pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment of cruise ed­u­ca­tion to travel agents.

An ed­u­cated mar­ket is the cat­a­lyst for strong lo­cal growth, as agent knowl­edge is a key driv­ing fac­tor to­wards client de­ci­sion-mak­ing. The fol­low­ing rea­sons are what agents re­ported when they con­cen­trated on book­ing more cruises: Easy to book: One whole­saler or one com­puter en­try made up the en­tire hol­i­day book­ing with ev­ery­thing catered for. Prof­itable: Av­er­age cruise com­mis­sion is eight-10 per cent Time ef­fi­cient: One book­ing in a timely man­ner. Sat­is­fy­ing to clients: More than 95 per cent sat­is­fac­tion rat­ings re­sulted in happy cus­tomers and good word of mouth. Eas­ily match clients’ needs: Cruise caters for many di­verse wants and needs in a hol­i­day, in­clud­ing a range of bud­gets. Re­peat busi­ness.

If I com­pare In­dia to any other mar­ket, it would be to where Aus­tralia was eight to ten years ago. How­ever, given the pop­u­la­tion of In­dia, along with the five port de­vel­op­ment pro­jects (Mum­bai, Mor­mu­gao, New Man­ga­lore, Chen­nai Port and Kochi) oc­cur­ring along its mas­sive coast­line, means that In­dia is in one of the best po­si­tions to cap­i­talise the cruise mar­ket than most na­tions can dream of. But the warn­ing is that po­ten­tial doesn’t al­ways mean sure suc­cess. There is a process which we’ve learnt from other mar­kets that needs to evolve and ed­u­ca­tion of agents is one of the key fac­tors. Train­ing is nec­es­sary

When I look back to those ear­lier times when I was train­ing agents across Aus­tralia and New Zealand, there was still an ap­pre­hen­sion to be ed­u­cated in cruise de­spite its ben­e­fits. Most agents thought their cruise busi­ness was not big enough (one or two sales ev­ery month) or that they knew enough to sell.

But as the years rolled by (and the mar­ket grew be­cause of the agents who pro­moted it), I started to see a shift in my au­di­ence. They were get­ting older; I was start­ing to get ex­pe­ri­enced agents who had been sell­ing travel for decades com­ing for cruise train­ing! It was be­cause they had no choice any­more. Their clients were dic­tat­ing what they wanted, and in the end the agents had no other op­tion but to un­der­stand cruise bet­ter if they wanted to keep their clients. The need for cruise ed­u­ca­tion ex­ploded to a point now that there is not a sin­gle re­tail travel busi­ness in the coun­try that doesn’t have cruise ed­u­ca­tion as part of their train­ing. So, should you wait un­til your clients’de­mand for cruise hol­i­days in­creases? I say no. You need to start learn­ing now, be­cause if you were go­ing to look at the most suc­cess­ful travel busi­nesses cur­rently in Aus­tralia, they were the ones who started all that time ago spe­cial­is­ing in cruise, be­com­ing cruise ac­cred­ited and cruise ex­perts, way be­fore oth­ers. Many built their busi­ness on this, and are now reap­ing the re­wards from the ex­plo­sion of cruise tourism. You can ig­nore these lessons if you like, but you will be be­hind the ones who didn’t. ( The views ex­pressed are solely of the au­thor. The pub­li­ca­tion may or may not sub­scribe to the same.)

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