Following the recent reshuffle at Carnival UK – which included the promotion of Paul Ludlow and subsequently Alex White, Princess Cruises’ head of sales – there was a recruitment drive across the corporation. Cunard, Princess and P&O are all undergoing a change in their management layout. And, as those gaps are slowly filled at the top of the company, the drive is filtering down.
One of the most recent, and interesting, promotions was that of Rachel Poultney to head of sales at Princess. The promotion of Poultney, who has been within Princesses’ sales team for three years, is good news for agents. She’s championed major accounts during her time and is well aware of the struggles, and challenges that British travel agents face in the current market. However, what are her plans for the role? And where does she think the company can improve? We sat down with her to find out more.
CA: What does year ahead hold for princess and industry?
RP: We also have a lot of exciting things on the horizon. Emerald Princess will be our primary ship in the UK. It will be getting a refurbishment at the end of November – with new dining venues, including our Salty Dog gastro pub, being installed to increase the overall onboard experience. I’m going to sit down with Tony Roberts, the new vice president of Princess Cruises, and take a wide view of everything we are doing. We’re both relatively new to our roles so we will use that as an opportunity to evaluate everything and see if we are adding value to our agent partners. It will continue to be about the agents. We want them to be as profitable as possible.
I’ve always been incredibly close with my accounts and I don’t want that to change
CA: What’s changing with your role?
RP: Previously I looked after a portfolio of accounts, including some biggies such as Tui, Trailfinders, Virgin, Bolsover and Iglu. But, I’ve been there for three years and at some point across that time I’ve probably looked after all our industry partners. I’ve always been incredibly close with my accounts and I don’t want that to change. What it does mean though is that I’ll be taking a step back from the day-to-day management of those accounts and looking more at strategy and how we can take the sales team forward. We have five sales managers across a wide distribution of agents and I’ll be making sure that we are going down the same path and that we are easy to do business with.
CA: What will you bring to the role of head of sales?
RP: I have been on the front line and I understand travel agents. I’ve attended the shows, been to the national conferences and met sales managers and branch managers from the major multiples. I’m very fortunate to have had that type of experience with the front line. It’s always been about listening to agents. We have also brought in a lot of initiatives to this effect. There was ‘front line first’ which we ran last year, and was championed by Shane Riley, where we got lot of front line staff, commercial managers and people from head offices into Carnival House to talk to them about specifically what we could do for them. This, along with our Vote for Change, initiated a lot of the programmes we put in place, such as Plain Sailing and our One Source booking platform.
CA: What do you want to work on?
RP: We want to take our agent toolkit (ship visit programme, academy at sea etc) and really develop it. We need to give agents the tools they need to be able to sell Princess Cruises. With all the changes that are happening to Emerald Princess we are going to have an extensive ship visit programme next year. People will get on board, see the venues, eat in the venues so that they can confidently sell Princess Cruises to their customers.
CA: What’s the biggest area of improvement for Princess?
RP: Princess has made some massive headway over the last three years, since we have put a dedicated sales team in place. We have achieved a lot but there are always areas to improve and areas to make it easier for us to do business with people. That’s the ultimate goal. By the end of 2016, if we ask a travel agent and they say that we are easy to do business with, they are familiar with our brand and are confident in selling our product, then I’m pretty sure we would have done a good job.
Rachel Poultney is head of sales at Princess Cruises