Published on Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cruise agents told to face Concordia tragedy head on

Agents have been urged not to shy away from the cruise industry's problems at this year's Association of Cruise Experts annual conference in Southampton.

Hurtigruten managing director Kathryn Beadle told retailers that the Costa Concordia incident earlier this year should be tackled head on.

The Costa Concordia capsized when it hit rocks off the Tuscan coast in January. In the widely publicised disaster, 25 people were killed and seven others are missing and presumed dead.

Most speakers at the conference believed the impact of the tragedy on the cruise industry would be short-lived.

"There is a short-term need to recognise it and face it head on," said Beadle.

"If you are knowledgeable and confident in what you are saying, you can reassure customers."

Passenger Shipping Association chairman Peter Shanks added: "The cruise industry has no divine right to positive media coverage and unstinting sales. Agents can give a balanced view. Recent events have impacted on public confidence in varying degrees in different markets."

Agents were also urged to take a fresh approach to selling cruises to counter misconceptions among travellers that cruising is expensive.

Retailers were told that research conducted by Mail Newspapers showed that 34% of would-be cruisers surveyed felt prices were too high.

However, only 11% of those who had cruised before felt the same way.

"The value message is not getting across to customers," said Beadle.

"There is definitely an opportunity here and we need to work on that because we know the reason why people book again once they’ve cruised is because it represents such value for money."

This year’s ACE Cruise Convention has been split into two events - a two-day session in Southampton for retail staff and a one-day conference in Birmingham for senior staff in September.

The Southampton conference, which is running today (Tuesday) and tomorrow is sold out with 285 agents attending, a higher number than those who attended last year’s ACE convention.

by Sara Macefield


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