Thursday, 11 August 2011

Agents rue phase-out of cruise brochures


Agents rue phase-out of cruise brochures

By Donna Tunney
As the business world migrates steadily toward digital communication platforms, some agents are beginning to lament the slow but steady disappearance of printed cruise brochures, which they say are often crucial tools in closing a sale.

The evolution away from print makes agents’ work particularly difficult, they say, when dealing with elderly clients who don’t use computers.

In recent years, a few of the major cruise lines have abandoned the printed versions of their brochures altogether, preferring instead to provide only digital ones.

The practice is frustrating to Jay Caulk, manager at The Travel Experts in Pompano Beach, Fla.

Cruise brochure graphic“I think I have about had it with calling cruise lines and being told that there are no more [printed] brochures” and agents have “to go online to view them,” Caulk said. “Do the lines not realize that they are cutting off their nose to spite their face by discontinuing this wonderful piece of public relations?”

Digital-only brochures are especially inconvenient when dealing with clients who don’t have computers. “We have to sit here while they view, sometimes for long periods of time, online brochures and deck plans,” he said.
Printed deck plans are important, he said, because prospective passengers like to “look and see what they want.”

Michael Beltz, owner of Cruise Holidays of Austin, Texas, agreed it’s a problem when deck plans are removed from printed brochures.

“Royal Caribbean did it a few years back, and they got so many complaints that they put them back in,” he said.

Harry Liu, a spokesman for Royal Caribbean International, explained that the line had experimented with publishing a series of thinner brochures, based on regions.

“Our valued travel agent partners gave us feedback that inclusion of ships’ deck plans in these brochures would better help them sell to their clients,” he said. “Royal Caribbean responded with first creating a ships’ deck plan supplement for those regional brochures already published, and then merged all global itineraries, deck plans and other information into one brochure in subsequent years.”

Carnival Cruise Lines is among the companies that have eliminated the printed product. Joni Rein, vice president for worldwide sales, said the line has “invested significantly” in e-brochures for two primary reasons.

“One, today’s shoppers and travel partners are very accustomed to, and prefer, visiting Carnival’s websites to find the most updated information. Their preference drives our investment decision to keep these resources updated with rich content rather than printing brochures, which quickly become outdated.”

And second, she said, e-brochures are real time, personalized and “help our travel partners close the deal in seconds.”

Additionally, the e-brochure design enables agents to customize each e-brochure to meet the client’s needs. They also include deck plans, Rein added.
Costa Cruises, too, has moved to an all-electronic brochure format.

Costa’s president and CEO for the Americas, Maurice Zarmati, said the cruise line adopted the digital format because Costa is “a very environmentally conscious company” and was thus concerned about the environmental impact of printing and distributing a 140-page brochure.

“All of the information previously available in the printed brochure is now available online,” Zarmati said. “We do, however, still have printed deck plans, and those are available to travel sellers upon request.”

Cunard is among the lines that continue to print full brochures. Spokeswoman Jackie Chase said the line annually prints a Fleet Brochure and four other brochures: World Voyage, Transatlantic Crossings, Europe and the Med and Queen Victoria Americas.

“Our field sales team makes all agents in their region aware of new brochures as they become available,” Chase said, adding that retailers can order brochures through the line’s agent website, OneSourceCruises.com.

Diane Smith, manager of AAA/Southern New England, in South Dennis, Mass., said her agency had not experienced a problem getting printed brochures from most of the lines, but complained that “they send limited quantities.”

“We actually have more of a problem getting tour company brochures,” Smith said.

Caulk said the lack of printed marketing materials was so bothersome that he would prefer to not book the lines that have eliminated brochures.

“But, sadly,” he said, “people want to cruise on those ships.”