Costco Travel is Out, Travel Professionals are In
Interview By: Joanie Ogg, Editor and Co-Founder of Travel Professional NEWS
Interviewing: Michele Saegesser, VP Sales and National Accounts
First and foremost, thank you for your time to speak with us! Viking has had another amazing year of growth and we would love to hear about all that is new and exciting for Viking River and Ocean cruising.
It has indeed been a very exciting year. Our Ocean program won T+L World’s Best Award. Our River program just won Conde Nast Best River Line and both programs won Best Luxury by Luxury Travel Advisor. Having the best quality and being respected by our guests is so important. Ocean ship #5 just went into the water!
Viking recently made a very noteworthy decision about working with Costco Travel that has met with tremendous thanks and support from Travel Professionals nationwide. I want to personally share my thanks and applaud Viking on that decision. Can you share more about that and what prompted such a strong stance?
Well, thank you so much for that. Decisions on this level take a lot of time and thought and we believe that our travel partners are able to fill ships.
In the past Viking did not have a rebate policy. We went on the philosophy that agents should run their business the way they choose. As we grew, it became apparent that we either needed to cut commission because Discounters were giving too much away or create a policy to hold tight on the Discounters and bring respect back to travel agent distribution. Cutting commission wasn’t the answer so we create what we believe is a very strong policy with teeth.
We were aware that this new policy would conflict with the business model of discounters. But we stand strong that this is the best policy for not only Viking but for the industry as a whole. And we thank our travel partners who stay on the watch of Discounters who try mock the program.
As for Costco, it was a mutual agreement that this new program would not work for them and Viking wasn’t willing to bend.
Lastly what I’d like to say on this is that there isn’t a need to discount a high end product. Viking’s programs sell themselves. Why does an agent need to give something away? My belief is agents should make all they can from a program like ours. We are the only river and the only ocean line that has a No NCFs policy. If you don’t know what that is, it means we pay you on everything single thing-that no one else does! We even pay commission on port taxes; on air; pre booked shore excursions; Shipboard credits you purchase for your clients; the list goes on and on! We believe in our trade partners and we want them to make a great living from partnering with Viking.
What has been the overall industry response to this announcement?
We are very thrilled at the response. So many standing ovations at conferences! And we hope our agents know this is an important stance of support for them.
Do you think other cruise lines should and will follow suit?
Costco is an excellent company and I understand the partnerships they have. It’s a big decision for every cruise line. We hope our agents will really rally behind Viking and remember our support of them with each booking!
How should a Travel Professional best approach Viking to engage in a working relationship?
Viking has an incredible group of dedicated Directors in the field to assist with everything from marketing plans to cruise nights. We are here to help you expand your luxury business.
What marketing opportunities does Viking see that they would like Travel Professionals to pursue?
The single most successful program we offer for agents is our advice on how to grow the river business. The second most important is learning how to find where the Vikings are and offer cruise nights. It’s the key to success. Let one of our Directors walk you through the process. We have a Cruise Night in a Box for those that are just starting out. Let our Sales Directors present to your clients and close the business for you.
From your perspective as a respected and very successful industry executive, what is the best advice you can provide to Travel Professionals to grow and prosper selling cruises?
The biggest issue I see with many agents is they don’t focus. They sell whatever walks in the door or calls. The agents that are super successful decide they will focus on 5 or 6 products and they give their all to that. Keep in mind (and this may sound crazy-it is!), if you book a Viking cruise every day for the entire year, it’s a million dollars in commission. Crazy, yes. BUT that IS focus. Who else can even give you that opportunity to make a million dollars? Really. No one. We have the marketing and the brand recognition and the inventory. That’s a total win for a travel advisor.
Focus also on building your database. It is the #1 issue for most agencies. Viking has a whole platform on how to build your luxury database.
And lastly. As we start a new year, sit down-every one of you-and write down how much money you want to make next year. Keep that number in front of you every day. Focus on how you can get to that number with who you are selling. You might be surprised how many agents I speak to have never thought about this!
I wish you all much focus and success in 2018. It’s going to be a great year. And thank you so much for the opportunity to discuss Viking with you today.
Thank you so much for your time, expertise and information here. There is no doubt Travel Professionals have a tremendous opportunity partnering with Viking to grow their businesses.
Policy Information: https://www.vikingcruises.com/terms-conditions/advertising-and-commissions-policy.html?ep_mid=11372360&ep_rid=1526716329