Travel Agents & Cruise Lines
Benefits of Booking Cruises
Many travel agents choose to specialize in cruises in large part because cruise ship bookings can be some of the most financially rewarding sales they can make. The commission rates are often among the highest in the travel industry. Additionally, many cruise lines also offer rewards programs for affiliated agents. As you book more clients on a given cruise line, you receive higher quality rewards. These programs are designed to provide incentives for travel agents to continue working with the company.
Although loyalty to one company can prove beneficial, it is still important to develop a relationship with several cruise lines. This will allow you to accommodate a variety of clients with a range of interests. You can expect your clients to inquire about excursions, tours, and dining options before they book their trip, and it's important that you, as their travel agent, be able to answer such questions. This level of expertise will also help you sell more "add-ons" which will directly effect your commission rate and take home pay.
Although the commission rates and benefits of booking cruises are quite impressive, it is important to recognize the seasonality of the industry. There are clear peak and low seasons, and your business will likely reflect this. If you develop an expertise in travel to several different geographies where the climate is variable, this may help counteract the seasonality of the industry somewhat. For example, the summer season in South America is actually the winter season in North America. By diversifying your expertise, you can balance out your clientele.
Commission Rates for Agents
As a travel agent, your commission for booking a cruise is dependent on any number of factors and can vary dramatically. It is typical for a travel agent to receive a commission somewhere in the range of 7-20%. Factors that affect the commission rate include the chosen cruise line, the cabin type purchased, the length of the cruise, the cost of the tickets, and the value of any add-ons. Some cruise lines also offer incentives and bonuses as your number of bookings grow. These incentive programs help ensure that you stay a loyal business partner of the cruise line. Even if you have loyalties to specific companies, it is important for you to remain educated and aware of all of the options available to your clients. Deals and promotions are constantly changing, and by staying ahead of the curve, you can make sure that both you and your client receive the best deal. This will keep your customers coming back time and time again.
Getting Started as a Cruise Ship Travel Agent
Cruises are some of the most popular bookings made by travel agents. They are also some of the most profitable. There are many different training opportunities through the cruise line industry that are available to travel agents. If you are just getting started as a cruise travel agent, it is best to understand all of the opportunities available to you. There are many different online programs available which offer "diplomas" or certificates to those who complete the coursework. These programs usually charge a tuition, but are often self-paced so you can complete them during times that are convenient to you. Some of these programs are offered by specific cruise lines while others are available through an outside source. It is best to inquire about the reputation of the program before paying a large sum of money.
Alternatively, you can familiarize yourself with the industry through on the job experience. Begin working in administration at a travel agency and take advantage of every educational opportunity that is presented to you. Even if your ultimate goal is to work as an independent, homebased travel agent, it helps to have at least a few years of employment at an established travel agency. This will help you build your clientele and allow you to fully understand the commission and booking systems prior to going it alone.
Regardless of how long you have been in the industry, it's important to keep your connections growing, both in your community and in the travel agent industry. Attending conferences and taking continuing education programs can help you stay informed of the most current programs and opportunities. Travel conferences that focus on cruising are some of the most popular and fun in the industry. Plan to attend at least one a year. The educational sessions will help keep you informed and ahead of the curve, and the networking opportunities will be invaluable as you move forward in your career.
Building your client base is also very important. Networking on a local level within your community can help you do this. By getting involved in your community, you will meet more of your neighbors and have a bigger social network from which you can build your client base. Consider getting involved in local churches, schools, or community clubs. These groups regularly organize travel and often turn to a travel agent to help them plan these trips. Think creatively as you work to identify future clients that will keep your business strong.
Types of Cruises
There are a wide variety of cruise types worldwide. While most people immediately think of Caribbean or Mediterranean cruises, the options are actually more varied and diverse than you'd ever expect. River cruises continue to grow in popularity. The smaller boat sizes and inland destination options make for an appealing option. River cruises are available throughout Europe, within the United States, and in more far flung destinations such as China or South America.
Cruise options not only vary by destination, but also by ship type, clientele, and expense. There are specialized cruises that cater to specific types of travelers. These include families, young adults, gay and lesbian travelers, or senior citizens. If you're interested in building your client base, familiarize yourself with specialized cruises and market yourself as the expert for that demographic. It's also a good idea to understand each cruise line and what market they specialize in. While some cruise lines like Carnival, are most popular with short, Caribbean cruises that leave from local ports, others are more international and worldwide. Princess offers a unique and wonderful Alaskan Cruise experience and Viking River Cruises is a good option for those looking for a unique river boating experience. The options are wide and varied in the cruising world, so before you bill yourself as an expert, it is best to thoroughly research all that is available.