Last night, Carnival welcomed approximately 300 travel advisors and their future clients to the second of four Why Use A Travel Advisor (WUATA) parties kicking off across North America through 2019.
Following a successful event in Orlando, Toronto, Ontario was the only Canadian stop on the WUATA party list.
In attendance were Adolfo Perez, senior vice president, global sales and trade marketing; Mike Julius, vice president, North America field sales; and Justin French, vice president, Canada and Northern U.S., alongside Ann Chamberlin, senior vice president membership, marketing and strategic partnerships, ASTA; and Charlie Sylvia, vice president, membership and trade relations, CLIA.
During the event, agents and their clients and soon-to-be-clients had the opportunity to network, while also watching a series of fun and engaging videos that highlighted real-life scenarios of situations where using a travel agent could have benefited them.
All five “WUATA Story” videos are available on the WUATA Facebook page and Carnival’s WUATA.com website, which also features a click-to-share tool that travel advisors can use to send the videos directly to their clients.
What is WUATA?
A play on words for "what a," Carnival's Why Use a Travel Advisor was born from the wish to celebrate travel agents and the hard work that they do, while delivering value to better serve the needs of their respective careers. Travel advisors were encouraged to invite a current client to attend who was encouraged to bring a “not-yet-a-client” to learn more about the underlying value of booking with an advisor.
Aimed at helping travel professionals attract new clients and deepen the loyalty of existing clients, WUATA is a multifaceted program with special events that bring clients and industry experts together to promote the travel agent community.
Last month, Carnival introduced several new websites in support of the WUATA program, which include WUATA.com and an exclusive WUATA Facebook page, both of which are consumer-focused with the aim of empowering future travellers to book with a travel advisor.
As part of the year-long incentive, alongside the four WUATA parties, there will be social media promotions, contests where consumers can nominate a travel agent, exclusive merchandise, giveaways, text alerts and WUATA Word, an innovative crowdsourced word cloud that will grow throughout the year as the movement expands.
Three myths that exist about agents
In an era where travellers are faced with endless vacation ideas and websites that encourage direct bookings, Perez says it's not uncommon for consumers to question whether or not they truly need a travel advisor. But the answer, he says, is always most definitely.
"A lot of people ask me, 'why would you use a travel agent?', or 'do travel agents still exist?', and I always say of course they do, so I thought it was important to get the word out to consumers," Adolfo Perez, senior vice president, global sales and trade marketing, Carnival, told PAX. "At the end of the day, if you want a professional; someone who can basically be your personal assistant during travel, then why not go to an expert who can do the research for you and can present you with options based on what you like, and what you don't like?"
The following three objections were shared by Perez to PAX, so that agents can overturn those statements into successful sales:
- "Travel agents cost too much money."
- "I'll just Google it myself, how hard can research be?"
- "They're only offering all these tours and add-ons to make more money."
"Some agencies might charge a service fee for small transactions but for the most part, travel advisors are free of cost," Perez explained. "A good travel agent knows their client and knows what itinerary and accommodations they need. Research takes a lot of work, especially if you have a lot of options, so if someone is available to sift through it all to curate something just for you, why not? If you're not using one, you're probably wasting a lot of time doing all the work yourself."
According to Perez, Carnival's percentage of repeat guests is 50 per cent, and travel agents are Carnival's largest single booking channel, and the numbers continue to grow.
"Travel agents have the ability to reach areas that we can't with our big advertising machines, like small towns, or the local church group, and they're going to tell them about the experience they had on a Carnival cruise vacation," French added. "Cruise specialists are tremendous value because they're qualifying an individual, they know exactly what they want, and they're going to tell them what's right for them. Once you get the right person on the right product, you've built yourself an annuity."
French also adds that while there may no longer be as many brick-and-mortar agencies, an influx of independent agencies working for host agencies is on the rise, with many specializing in a specific niche market, such as cruise.
Four myths about the current cruise market
According to French, there are several myths surrounding cruising that continue to plague the industry. Now more than ever, travel agents play a vital role in telling Carnival's story, and sharing knowledge and valuable information to future travellers.
The following myths are common misconceptions first-time cruisers might have:
- "Cruising is for old people!"
- "Paying for a drink package isn't worth it, I'll just do an all-inclusive on land."
- "I don't want to be stuck on a ship all day."
- "It's too expensive."
"The average age of a cruise customer is certainly coming down; the average age of one of our guests is mid-40s, and we're definitely seeing more millennials starting to cruise, because they started cruising with their families," explained French. "After their parents took them on a cruise vacation, now, they're more likely to take that cruise vacation as a result."
French also noted that it's not so much the initial expense of a cruise that travellers should focus on, but the overall value. From an overwhelming variety of onboard dining experiences, to amenities for cruisers of all ages, cruising is actually more all-inclusive than one might think.
Carnival's drink package, for example, has been around for a little over five years and provides guests with different options depending on their vacation needs. For a daily fee, guests receive unlimited water, sodas and energy drinks, juices, and up to 15 alcoholic drinks. In some cases, when drinks cost $20 each, clients have already "gotten their money's worth" after two drinks, for the same price of the drink package, French explains.
"Our competition is not other cruise companies, it's all land-based destinations in the Caribbean and in the South, and that's where we target our guests," French explained. "If you're taking someone who's used to land-based destinations and then you put them on a cruise ship, the reality is that if you put the right person on the right ship, the chances of them coming back are ten-fold."
In terms of the overall cost of a cruise, Carnival is the only cruise company to offer guests their money back if they're unsatisfied with their cruising experience.
"If you want off the ship, we give you back 100 per cent of the money you paid, we fly you back to your home city, we'll give you an onboard credit for a future cruise vacation, we'll protect agency commissions, pay for transfers and overnight hotels, just to ensure customers have a worry-free guarantee," French explained. "The reality is, it hardly ever gets used."
Currently, Canada is one of the largest markets for Carnival outside of the U.S., with Ontario being the largest market, followed by Quebec, B.C., and Alberta.
Carnival's last two WUATA events will take place in New York on Sept. 8, and Los Angeles, California on Oct. 29. Those who wish to attend may visit www.GoCCL.com to register.
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