INDSUurSve Ty RY
WHAT DO ICKI FREED LOVES
That’s what Freed, Car-
SUPPLIERS nival Cruise Lines’ senior
vice president of sales
and marketing, calls her
blog, and it’s not an emp-
WANT? ty slogan.
Freed, one of the most
accessible senior execu-
By Michele McDonald Vtives in the travel industry, recently used her
blog to tout a program called Carnival
Targeter, a permission-based, e-mail
marketing campaign based on clients’
demographic information and personal interests.
Several agents posted concerns
about providing their client lists to a
third-party data warehouse vendor
and about the quantity of e-mail their
clients would receive. Freed responded
to every concern.
On the other side of Miami, Lisa
Bauer, Royal Caribbean International’s
senior vice president of North American sales, was working on the rollout
of a new version of CruiseMatch, the
Web-based cruise booking system
that will empower travel agents to create and modify both individual and
She was also promoting the company’s University of WOW, an online
training tool for agents that is the next
best thing to taking an actual cruise.
Freed and Bauer, fierce competitors,
both invest a lot of time and energy
— not to mention their companies’
resources — on ensuring that travel
agents have the tools they need to sell
their respective products.
If you think they don’t pay attention
to what sort of return they are getting
on their investments, you would be
wrong. They not only look at what
agents deliver, they each take note of
what agents deliver to the other.
“I absolutely look at what travel
agents are doing on other lines,” Freed
said. “Loyalty, at the end of the day,
counts a lot.”
“We always look at our share of the
market,” Bauer said.
Market share is a relative thing. “On
a sales call, a guy might tell me that he
is giving me 2,000 people,” Freed said.
“But what he’s not telling me is that he
is giving our competitor even more.”
Conversely, she said, an agent might
be sending 200 clients to Carnival, but
“he’s busting his butt for us because
that represents 90% of his contemporary cruise market.
“So I have to work harder with the
first guy,” Freed said. Obviously, an
agent who sends that many clients to
a particular line is happy enough with
the product, “but where is the disconnect? Does he need something more
Nothing gratifies Bauer more than
when travel agents adopt the tools and
resources that Royal Caribbean has devised for them, such as eConnect, an e-mail marketing tool that she describes
as “very powerful,” or Travel Agency
Locator, which includes the agency in
full-page ads in its local market.
But agents have to fill out a profile
to use either feature, and it’s frustrat-ing when they pass up the chance.
“I like to see them embrace these
tools,” she said, adding, “Part of it is
our responsibility to make people
aware of them.”
Royal Caribbean has taken the educational effort a step further with online tutorials that walk agents through
the process of using the tools.
“We understand that these things
are new, and our job is to make it easy
to understand,” Bauer said.
When it comes to the actual booking, Freed is completely agnostic as to
how they go about it.
“I want them to book however they
want,” she said. “If they want to book
electronically, I want it to be easy for
them. If they want to use the phone,
thank goodness they’re calling.”
Bauer wants agents at least to give
the new version of CruiseMatch a
whirl, but she emphasized that agents
won’t be penalized for booking in the
way they are most comfortable.
“Our investment is less about not
taking their calls and more about how
they can sell more cruises,” she said.
‘COME TO US’
Hilton Hotels Corp., on the other
hand, is seeking a specific behavioral
change from travel agents.
“We want our consumers to come
directly to us on our Web site, and we
want travel agents to do the same,”
G. T. Dhillon, managing director of
travel industry relations, said.
“That’s not to say that we don’t like