Norwegian Cruise Line ‘committed’ to ship visits for travel agents

The chief executive of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) has praised the “tremendous” backing from UK travel agents in response to the company’s wide-ranging trade initiatives.

Harry Sommer said he is “thrilled” with the trade support following ship visits, training, joint marketing and the introduction of commission on the parts of fares that are usually non-commissionable.

The president and chief executive of NCLH made his comments on a Travel Weekly webcast in Barcelona on Norwegian Viva, Norwegian Cruise Line’s second Prima class ship, which launched earlier this month.

“We are 100% committed to the trade…we win together and we will do everything in our power to make you success because you make us a success,” he said.

He said agents visiting Viva could see the ship’s innovative design, restaurants and entertainment for themselves – such as the theatre that transforms into a nightclub.

“We’ve seen tremendous support from the trade community; obviously many of them had to go away from cruise when we shut down for 500 days [in the pandemic], but it’s really, really bouncing back,” he said.

NCL has also had a new policy of paying agent commission on the portion of the fare that was previously non-commissionable, such as port fees and other charges.

“We believe that we maximise our profitability when we get the trade community fully behind us; we can’t win without them and we want to do everything in our toolkit,” he said, commenting on non-commissionable fares and “tremendous” marketing spend.

“We absolutely saw a significant shift in business, in a positive way.”

NCL is committed to having 1,500 agents on its ships between May and October, including several on the new ship Viva this week and last.

“We believe that the single biggest thing that we can do to get travel agents to sell our product is to experience it,” he said.

“We can talk until we are blue in the face about how beautiful the product is, what a wonderful guest experience, all the choices that guests have and the wonderful times they have onboard – but a travel agent comes and sees it for themselves and then they really believe.”

Commenting on trends across NCLH’s three brands – NCL, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises – he said the company is seeing demand for more “destination intensive” cruises, with longer durations, and more bookings further in advance.

NCL cruises from Southampton to Reykjavik during the summer season have been a “fantastic success” in 2022 and 2023 – and will run again next year.

However, he said there was not enough demand for more cruises to sail from Southampton as customers are happy to fly to Mediterranean ports to start their holidays.

One region that is back on the map for NCLH is Asia, for the first time in three years, with cruises visiting countries such as Japan, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand.

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