Club Royal interview <br> Ben Bouldin

Club Royal interview
Ben Bouldin

Having celebrated the first birthday of Club Royal at a bash in Hampshire, Royal Caribbean is seemingly going from strength to strength. The scheme, which gives agents £5 per Royal Caribbean booking, has been an undoubted success – with some members of the trade racking up some serious commissions. However, with the company losing Anthem of the Seas – the piece of hardware that gained it all of the positive publicity around the launch, questions remain about how it will maintain that success.

Cruise Adviser sat down with Ben Bouldin, Royal Caribbean sales director, to find out about more about what the company reckons is the best trade engagement scheme in the industry.

Cruise Adviser: Has Club Royal been a success?
Ben Bouldin: It’s been amazing – we have genuinely been surprised by how successful it has been. You are saying to an agent that every time you make a booking we will give you a consistent reward. So, in a way I guess it isn’t that surprising. What generally happens in the cruise industry is that cruise lines will send out a big incentive when they really need agents. But, when they don’t, they forget about them. For us, it is the consistency that has been the key to Club Royal’s success. When we started we said that we would run Club Royal for 365 days a year, seven days a week. In fact we have done more than that because of the boosters where we increase the amount we pay. We also pay the tax on that too – so it goes straight into an agent’s bank account.

Anthem of the Seas North Star
Anthem of the Seas’ North Star

CA: Has there been a marked improvement in sales?
BB: There has but as with anything in this industry  it’s not just down to one silver bullet. I can’t claim that our success this year is all down to Club Royal. Having Anthem of the Seas in Southampton has been a huge advantage – and our pipeline of hardware puts us in a strong position. Club Royal helps us cement those relationships with the trade. It gives me and my team a chance to go round and see agents we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to see more than once or twice a year. We are making ourselves more accessible to agents and making them more comfortable coming to us.


CA: So, the key is building up relationships?
BB: Yes, there are plenty of people giving more than £5 away for every booking. But it is never the same partner with any consistency. So, if you are an agent who is fickle and is prepared to jump around to the best promotion on different types of holiday on at that particular time then you could maximise your earnings that way, but there are very few agents who have that skill set. We have a whole load of agents who love the Royal Caribbean brand. They all holiday with us. That’s why the £300 benefit (where gold card agents receive £300 off Royal Caribbean cruises) means so much to them. It also makes sure that they know our products inside and out.

CA: What’s the most one agent has made on Club Royal?
BB: £2,500. We have 106 who have earned more than £1,000 and many of those have earned between £1,500 and £2,000.

CA: Azamara coming on board is a big endorsement, too.
For Azamara it was a no-brainer. By coming into Club Royal they have access to 6,500 travel agents who are well versed in the Royal Caribbean product. So if someone in the call centre gets someone who wants a smaller ship in a smaller destination and who doesn’t want to be getting off with 3,000 people then we can jump ship and switch-sell to Azamara. There is no conflict with Royal Caribbean at all. Frankly, it also covers our blind spot. If Royal has one then it is that older guest who wants destination immersion, but we have the product within our family to cater for them.

CA: Are you concerned about the prospect of losing Anthem of the Seas?
BB: When you get any new ship homeporting in Southampton it is fantastic for the market. The PR coverage we got from that was brilliant and we delivered. The ship sailed full and we had good on-board spend. It was a bit disappointing to lose it because we would have wanted to build on that. But, we are getting Independence of the Seas back, which is selling astonishingly well and is very popular with the Brits. We had people going on Anthem and saying they actually preferred Independence. It has a larger pool area, more outdoor space for kids – everyone has their own persuasion. And, remember that Anthem is still in the fleet. Interestingly, a couple of years ago 60 per cent of our customers sailed from the UK. Now, 60 per cent get on a plane.

Read our review of Anthem of the Seas here  

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