He is now at cruise3sixty, exhibiting among a growing number of destinations that are reaching out to travel agents.
'The travel agents are more important in this industry than anywhere else,' said Larsen, who brings an airline background. And the U.S. market is key, he added, because it comprises almost half the Baltic Sea's tourism business.
Cruise Baltic's destination workshop at cruise3sixty was oversubscribed, with more than 100 attendees. And Larsen spoke at the conference's first World Cruise Destinations Forum, along with representatives of Alaska, the Caribbean, Hawaii, San Diego and Puerto Costa Maya.
The Cruise Baltic chief said cruise3sixty agents have peppered him with questions: 'They want to know the differences between the countries. Is it safe? Is it clean? What about the port facilities? Every third question is about the weather.' Other hot issues: visas for Russia and what the region offers for children.
Agents can 'make a lot of money selling Baltic cruises because it's a premium product,' Larsen said. Ideas to create their own itineraries and groups are offered in a product manual that includes regional themes such as 'Kings & Tsars,' 'Modern Architecture & Design' and 'Great Shopping & Fine Food.'
With this kind of detailed knowledge, 'The travel agent can give the consumer something they can't get from the Internet,' said Anette Jensen, cruise marketing manager for Wonderful Copenhagen/Cruise Copenhagen Network, also a cruise3sixty exhibitor.
Cruise Baltic is not just targeting US retailers. The network plans to launch an e-learning program at the Passenger Shipping Association Retail Agents Scheme's UK Cruise Convention in May. A Cruise Baltic Specialist course in the US and Canada could follow. But tackling the North American trade is tougher, in part because so many agents are home-based. Larsen and Jensen are talking with companies at cruise3sixty to see which could help them hone in on the right agents.
Cruise Baltic aims to work with agents because they have so much clout with the cruise lines. 'As soon as they see demand from the travel agents, they know where to place their ships,' Larsen said.