'Asia, Australia and South America are among new destinations for cruising, as well as the Arabian Gulf, all of which add up to exciting potential for agents to increase sales … and earn more commission,' said moderator, consultant Alan Le Coyte.
Dario Rustico, regional sales & marketing director for Costa Cruises, stressed that trade support is crucial for industry development. 'Sales via the trade may not be 100% any more but maybe 70% comes through travel agents and they are still essential,' he said.
Daniel Essex, CEO of The Cruise Portfolio, noted online or face-to-face training is offered by most cruise lines and Royal Caribbean regional sales director Helen Beck suggested agencies should consider investing in training cruise specialists to increase earnings, while cruise manager at dnata–Gulf Ventures, Jasem Zaiton, put the case for themed cruise centres to bring the cruise experience closer to the client.
'Agencies should consider engaging more Arabic-speaking staff to promote to the local market,' he said, adding that greater exposure on social media, perhaps featuring local and regional celebrities on a cruise, would emphasize the benefits and experience of cruising as a vacation.
'Eighty-five per cent of GCC travellers stay in the region and this market could be targeted now that the trend to vacation in Lebanon and Egypt has changed due to instability in these countries,' Zaiton said.
To support further growth in Gulf cruising, Costa is varying its itineraries next year to offer a ‘slow cruise’ option that will include overnight stays in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Muscat, Rustico said, while Beck suggested that in future the Chinese and Indian markets would look to the region as a cruise destination, raising the possibility of bringing in newer and bigger ships in response to increased demand.