Ben Bouldin, Royal Caribbean International, tells ITTN what’s in store for the year ahead.

Ben Bouldin, Royal Caribbean International, tells ITTN what’s in store for the year ahead.

With the launch of two new ships in 2016, Ben Bouldin, Sales Director, Royal Caribbean International UK & Ireland, tells ITTN what’s in store for the year ahead.

“This is set to be another great year of opportunity for Royal Caribbean and our travel partners as we continue to work closely with them to attract a new generation of holidaymakers. Over the last year, we have seen a rise in our loyal guests seeking more adventurous, exotic locations and we believe this trend is set to continue in 2016.

Asia is a focal point for the industry and a destination in which Royal Caribbean is steering the way. Launching in April 2016, our latest Quantum-class ship, Ovation of the Seas, will be the first cruise ship specifically designed for the Chinese market and our fifth to be based in China.

Demand for cruises around Dubai and the Middle East has also soared recently. Dubai bookings, for example, have increased by 126% for 2016 compared to 2015 and, interestingly, UK and Ireland passengers account for 42% of all passengers on Royal Caribbean ships in Dubai – up from 23% in 2015. We also have a strong presence in the Pacific and South America, which continues to be popular for guests.”

What can Royal Caribbean trade partners expect from their training programmes?

“We work closely with our trade partners to review our training programmes to ensure we are providing them with the right tools to best meet their needs – whether that is selling to a new cruise guest or to guide them on our destinations and ships.

Central to this is our multi-award-winning e-training platform, ‘Cruising for Excellence,’ which features short module-based lessons in a ‘real life’ 3D training environment. In order to sell a cruise package with us, agents must complete this scheme to become a ‘Captain’. They are then eligible for our industry-leading Club Royal reward and recognition programme – which has just passed a new milestone with over 8,000 travel agents now qualified.

Our Cruising for Excellence programme also covers everything an agent might need to know about Royal Caribbean including information about our destinations, ship specifications and top tips on selling cruises. It also enables agents to take a virtual tour of a ship as if they were on board – an industry first.

The intention behind these modules is to help build the confidence of agents so they feel equipped to answer a variety of questions and sell our products to the best of their ability. These training tools have also been recently updated so they are now device responsive and compatible with mobile phones and tablets, enabling travel agents to learn on the go, at a time convenient to them. We are confident this will make learning even easier, so we can recruit more and more highly knowledgeable brand ambassadors.

The digitisation of the booking process is another area we will be exploring further in 2016. Our ‘Espresso’ booking tool provides a more intuitive approach and offers an interactive system with fewer booking steps. What is more, the agents will also be able to search and book multiple staterooms at the same time and view more Loyalty Guest information. This will help agents personalise their approach, build rapport and upsell to prospective guests.”

So, what is Ben Bouldin’s advice for Irish travel agents looking to attract the new to cruise audience?

  • First and foremost, complete any training to hand – our Cruising for Excellence (CFE) programme is an award-winning e-learning tool that provides travel agents with a realistic, virtual onboard experience that will help them really understand and sell the experience as well as the specifications. We have enhanced the tool and they can now access it on the go – from any device.  
  • Tailor information to your audiences – The travel market for millennials is huge and they have different and unique needs. They often want to delve into the detail of itineraries and experiences. Knowledge of the destinations, even down to where they could eat with the locals, will pay off.
  •  Sell on service and paint a picture of what they are going to experience. New to cruise travellers may have an outdated view of cruise holidays and all the opportunities trips can offer. Showcasing recent innovations onboard, the level of service they can expect and the unique views of different cities and cultures they can experience in one trip can help open their eyes to the world of cruise.
  • Get to know our ships and itineraries inside out by focusing on fewer departures. This will help ensure teams really get to grips with what those cruises offer each passenger, which can help agents take a more rounded and engaging approach to selling cruises.
  •  Join Club Royal and put yourself in the frame to win places on Inaugural Sailings and Seminars at Sea. Through Club Royal we regularly offer our agents the chance to win ‘Money can’t buy’ experiences centred around both our ships and the incredible destinations we visit – it’s an incredible way to immerse yourself in our brand but you have to be in it to win it!
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Sarah Slattery has been in the travel industry for the past 24 years, initially as a sales consultant and progressed to sales and marketing director of Skytours. Sarah’s experience and knowledge led to a regular slot on TV3 as the travel expert on the Morning Show. She has her own blog which offers advice on destinations and the best travel deals.

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