Monday, 4 August 2014

Norwegian's new amenities package draws agent interest

Norwegian's new amenities package draws agent interest

By Tom Stieghorst
Andy Stuart, Norwegian Cruise Line’s executive vice president of global sales, said some 3,000 agents joined a webinar about its new all-in-one amenities package, about a third more than the typical audience for a Norwegian webinar.

Called the All-Inclusive, the new product is a package of packages, bundling Norwegian’s Ultimate Dining and Ultimate Beverage packages with Internet minutes, plus a bevy of other items not included in the cruise fare.

“We got a ton of positive feedback,” Stuart said.

The All-Inclusive package is offered on cruises of three to 14 days in 2015. For a seven-day cruise, it is priced at $899 per person, with higher or lower prices for shorter or longer cruise lengths.

Norwegian will pay commission on the package at the same rate as the cruise fare, with the exception of the gratuities that are included in the package.

“There’s absolutely no way to make a big promotion and offer a package that for a seven-night cruise is $899 and ask the travel agents to support it without paying commission,” said Stuart.

Norwegian ran numerous examples to test the idea that selling the package could double an agent’s commission and feels that is a valid claim, he added.

Vicky Garcia, COO of Cruise Planners in Coral Springs, Fla., called the package an “extraordinary” value and said it would help agents get customers focused on 2015.

“Also, this all-inclusive offer is combinable with other sales or promotions that are currently in the market,” Garcia said.

Norwegian said the package represents more than $2,400 of value per stateroom. Although the exact value will vary according to an individual’s choices, Travel Weekly found a seven-night guest paying a la carte could spend about $1,350 for what’s in the package (see breakdown, above left).

Inclusive packages are also valued because they create certainty about costs.

“A lot of people like to be done with it before the cruise starts,” Stuart said. “They like to have that element done, and they get on their vacation, and they’re not thinking about … should I do this or should I not do that because there’s a cost attached to it.”

Beyond the dining, beverage and Internet packages, the All-Inclusive package includes a $200-per-person credit toward shore excursions, prepaid gratuities, 20 photos of any size, three bingo cards, a bottle of wine, chocolate-covered strawberries and six large bottles of water.
Teppanyaki
For cruises from three to five days, the shore excursion credit is $100 per person; and for sailings from nine to 14 days, the package includes 12 bottles of water.

“We felt very comfortable presenting this as an all-inclusive package,” Stuart said, adding that it will help Norwegian compete with all-inclusive resorts as well as with other cruise lines.

On select cruises, buying the All-Inclusive package also qualifies a guest for a 10% discount on the cruise fare.

At least initially, All-Inclusive will be available only from Aug. 4 through 29 on all 2015 cruises except those on the Pride of America. Stuart said there will be discussion later of how long to continue the package.

“It’s the first time the industry has ever done this, so we want to get a sense of whether it resonates with travel agents,” he said.

Stuart said Norwegian has seen a growing interest in inclusivity among its guests, and did research about what elements to include in the package. It found the most valued benefit was prepaid service charges, followed by the Ultimate Dining package and then the Ultimate Beverage package.

One unexpected result of the research was that first-time cruisers expressed as much or more interest as past cruisers in buying the package.

“That took us by surprise, I must say,” Stuart said. “But it encouraged us, because it really showed there was a broad audience for this promotion.”