Norwegian Cruise Line today announced “Partners First,” the company’s corporate philosophy of putting its travel partners first at Cruise3Sixty, the official travel agency conference of the cruise line industry. Andy Stuart, Norwegian’s executive vice president of global sales and passenger services, detailed how the company is putting partners first in three key areas: investment in long-term travel partner success; a complete focus on being easy to do business with; and a commitment to travel partners on direct business.
“Travel partners are an integral part of our business and putting them first is part of our DNA,” said Stuart. “We felt that we needed to do a better job of communicating this philosophy to our travel partners so that they could clearly understand our commitment to them.”
In terms of investment in agents’ long-term success, the company committed $16 million toward new customizable marketing tools, increased marketing support, improved communication and keeping NCL University as the most robust travel partner education site and online community in the industry. The company is also investing in its outside sales team and expanding its inside sales team by 45% to dramatically grow the line’s reach to ensure every single travel partner has a contact at Norwegian to help grow their business.
Stuart also outlined Norwegian’s stance on direct business. “There’s been a lot of noise in the marketplace recently about direct sales. We want to assure our partners that we do not use customer data from travel agent bookings for direct business. We will not contact our partners’ clients to book directly with us,” said Stuart. “Also, our direct business has no price advantage.”
To ensure travel partners are aware of Norwegian’s commitment, the company has engaged a dedicated trade agency, R&R Partners, to handle all aspects of the company’s trade marketing and programs. R&R has handled aspects of Norwegian’s trade program since 2008.
An open letter from Andy Stuart to travel partners will appear in a number of trade publications the week of April 18, 2011 outlining the company’s commitment to travel partners. Travel partners are encouraged to visit www.partnersfirst.ncl.com to view a video of Stuart discussing “Partners First,” along with an area for partners to post their comments with regards to the company’s commitment. A new trade advertising campaign focused on “Partners First” will launch in May. The campaign will feature actual travel partners and will celebrate their knowledge and commitment to their clients.
“It’s important that our travel partners understand that Norwegian is a new cruise line today with the entire company focused on guest satisfaction and putting our partners first,” said Stuart.