P&O wants travel agents to shine with new scheme

P&O Britannia

P&O Cruises is to launch its first ever travel agent loyalty scheme. And the news is sure to get the trade talking. The Shine Rewards Club – which rewards agents for their ‘interactions’ with the brand, rather than bookings alone – forms the lynchpin of the line’s travel agent strategy for the next few years. It’s also how they hope to fill that 30% capacity rise [that the new ship will bring] with new-to-cruise guests. We spoke to Alex White, vice president of sales at Carnival UK, to find out more about the launch of the new club.

Why have you launched an agent rewards scheme now?
The timing is very much an evolution of the Partnerships team concept. Two years ago, we set out to transform how both P&O Cruises and Cunard support the trade. We’ve been very successful in that and had two record years of sales for both brands from a travel agent perspective. P&O is now looking to the future when it comes to how we engage our front-line sellers. We’re going to be putting our new ship on sale in less than a year so we’re looking at new ways to engage and reward front-line sellers as we prepare to go through the most significant transformation in our history. The new ship will add 30% to our capacity and we need to appeal to a wider audience.

We’re going to be putting our new ship on sale in less than a year so we’re looking at new ways to engage and reward front-line sellers

Tell us more about the programme itself…
We wanted to have a loyalty and engagement programme that doesn’t just reward the people selling our holidays but encourages those who are willing and want to build advocacy for the brand – whether that’s attending ship visits or completing training modules. This is how we will drive our growth. This is a multimillion pound investment in terms of rewarding agents. It is the most important thing we will do for our trade engagement for the next couple of years.

So, it is more inclusive than just a scheme?
Absolutely. That’s how we will engage with and train travel agents. It’s a fundamental change in what we’re doing. It will reward the behaviours that we want to see from our front-line sellers.

What do agents have to do to take part?
Agents can register for Shine Rewards from November 20 and the scheme will open on December 21. From then, every time agents make a booking they can log it on the site. Once there, they can engage in the loyalty programme through a gamification element. They’ll be able to build up points which can be exchanged for a whole host of prizes. In the past, we’ve led sales efforts such as having your mortgage paid off for the entire year or winning a Mini, what we’ve learnt is that people want to be rewarded in different ways. Now they’ll have that flexibility.

Agents can  choose to either spend their points or save them up and eventually take a P&O Cruises holiday. The more agents that we get doing that, the more cruises they will sell – especially to those new-to-cruise customers, and it’s by doing that, that we will be able to build up the cruise industry.

This is a multimillion pound investment in terms of rewarding agents

We’ve ran graduation cruises in the past once agents have reached the top level of our training but the great thing about the new programme is that agents can get a free cruise from us no matter what level they are. It really is the most varied and flexible reward programme we’ve ever done.

How else can agents earn points?
The primary mechanism for getting points is going to be making a booking. Once they’ve done that they will be able to spin the wheel on the website to try and win more. There will also be points available for ship visits and training. Our sales team will also make ‘surprise and delight’ visits if someone makes a fantastic booking, for instance, and we will add bonus points on to their account.

Could you reward agents for new to cruise bookings?
Absolutely. In the future, because of the gamification element, the level of points that travel agents win will be determined by the value of their behaviour. So, we know that every newcomer who is booked is critical to our success, so we could make that a greater incentive. That will happen to other things too – whether it’s shore excursions or additional land stays. During wave, however, we will keep it simple but we will adapt it as we develop it.

This isn’t about growing in the cruise space. It’s about encouraging guests to book a guest who has never been on a cruise holiday. We’re not competing in the cruise space. We’re growing the cruise space and looking to reach new audiences.

At the moment this is just P&O Cruises but there’s no reason why this won’t be translated to other brands in the UK in the future, like Cunard. It’s not confirmed but long-term we want it to be a Carnival Corporation initiative.

Sam Ballard

Sam Ballard is the publisher of CRUISE ADVISER and has been writing about the cruise industry for a number of years. His CV includes the likes of shipping magazine International Cruise & Ferry Review and the digital publication Cruise News. He can be contacted on:sam@cruise-adviser.com.

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