Cruise line consultant Bob Dickinson

Cruise line consultant Bob Dickinson

By Tom Stieghorst
Bob DickinsonFormer Carnival Cruise Lines CEO Bob Dickinson has spent the past year consulting for Carnival Corp.’s four North American brands. His assignment ends May 31. Dickinson took time out from a hiking trip in California’s Napa region to speak with cruise editor Tom Stieghorst about how cruises need to be marketed and how crucial agents are to capturing the first-time cruiser.

Q: What’s your overall opinion of the current state of cruise line marketing?

A: For the last number of years — six, seven, eight years — cruise lines have been undermarketed. When the fuel prices went up, the first thing to go was the TV advertising budget.

Social media is fine, but social media doesn’t reach first-time cruisers. It’s sort of like Al Gore’s inconvenient truth — or in this case, an inconvenient falsehood, that we can substitute one for the other.

Q: Is anyone doing better than the rest?

A: Look at Viking River Cruises and what they’ve been able to do with Masterpiece Theater.

It’s not a huge TV buy, but the visual of whatever it is that is in the commercial fully explains that riverboat experience, makes it aspirational, makes it achievable, makes it so that I see myself in that picture, certainly in the over-50 set, which is who they’re marketing to.

Q: What role do travel agents play in connecting the majority of people who have no experience with a cruise to the insiders who run the industry?

A: Travel agents are the biggest gateway to first-time cruisers, and the cruise industry in the last couple of years has not always been friendly to the travel agent — and in some cases tied their hands. When you’re selling three-, four-, five-day cruises where the noncommissionable fare is as much as the cruise ticket and you’re getting 15% of $149, why would they sell that? Let them sell Sandals, let them sell river cruises, things where there’s a lot of money.

Q: What changes should the cruise lines make?

A: I think some cruise lines have already changed back and have realized that the industry has overplayed its hand. In general, I think all of the brands, certainly the brands I worked with for the past year, are more agent-friendly this year than they were a year ago in terms of their policies and their procedures: pricing, co-op advertising. Every one of the four Carnival North America brands has better policies in place now than they did a year ago.

Q: Did you end your consulting agreement with Carnival or did management?

A: Very candidly, that was their choice. A consulting agreement is like a marriage; if one partner doesn’t want it, the other doesn’t either, if you know what I mean. If there is a willing audience at some point, I would like to do some [other] marketing or management consulting.

Q: Are you still working with the Camillus House homeless shelter in Miami? What else are you up to?

A: On Aug. 1, we’re going take another 100 of the most hard-core, chronic homeless in the city and start them on the process of getting their lives back together. [But] I’ve cut back my time commitment, from 30 to 40 hours a week after I retired to 10 to 20 hours a week now. [My wife] Jodi and I are kind of on a second honeymoon. [In Napa] we’re walking about two hours a day on average, enjoying the restaurants and just hanging out. On June 4, we’ll be going to [our] home in North Carolina. We’ll be there throughout the summer.

Mobile could pose biggest threat to travel stores of the future

Mobile could pose biggest threat to travel stores of the future


By Travolution
By Travolution

The move by technology giant Apple to establish a high street presence should provide the inspiration for the bricks and mortar travel stores of the future, but mobile could emerge as their biggest threat.

The fourth annual WTM Vision half-day conference in London debated the future of the high street with David Burling, managing director of Tui UK and Andy Washington, managing director of Expedia taking part in a panel debate.

Burling used the example of Apple, which has a network of stores throughout the UK in prime locations showcasing its products, as an example of how the future of the high street might look.

“The travel agency has evolved and it will keep evolving. If you have bookings that can be transacted across different channels the stores of the future may be different from the stores of today.

“What is clear is that the quality of the service and advice that good travel agents can give is still very important.

“Channels are becoming more blurred. The technology will become more available for consumers to start the booking in one channel and finish it elsewhere.

“The strength of the retailer is really around the product knowledge and customer service but there is also a role for the stores of the future offering more inspiration at the very early stages of the booking.

“Who would have believed that Apple of all people would have decided to open a load of retail stores?”

Mike Greenacre, former managing director of Co-operative travel  and a delegate at today’s event agreed.

“I very much agree with Dave about inspiration. The high street has greatly evolved and I think it will continue. The big change that will come is how retail stores embrace this technology.

“Where there is an Apple store it’s the busiest shop in town by a long long way.”

However, Andy Washington, managing director of Expedia UK, said: “The biggest threat to the high street us mobile.

“What’s stopping me going into a high street store getting them to do all the work and then googling it on my mobile to find it cheaper?”

Burling said Tui UK’s strategy is based around its differentiated product offering that stems from its close partnerships with hoteliers that has seen it develop a number of resort concepts.

“We want to be involved in designing a particular hotel experience with our partners. By doing that we get a better consumer experience, better repeat business and better reviews.”

Burling said concepts like its Splashworld water park resorts were showing “huge growth”.

“It’s identifying the customer requirements and working with hotel partners. We can do that because of our scale.”

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Greenacre voices concern for future of Co-operative Travel

Greenacre voices concern for future of Co-operative Travel

By Ian Taylor

Greenacre voices concern for future of Co-operative Travel
Former Co-operative Travel head Mike Greenacre has questioned Thomas Cook’s plans to close shops and appoint ‘cluster managers’.

Writing for this Business:am, Greenacre, architect of the joint venture with Thomas Cook, asks Cook to consider whether the plan “will deliver”.

He also queries the future for The Co‑operative Travel name, arguing: “There appears little attempt to continue differentiation between brands.”

Greenacre ran The Co-operative Travel for three decades, retiring at the end of 2011 after completing the joint venture.

He says the deal to combine the retail businesses “aimed to ensure The Co-operative Travel would continue to flourish while as many jobs as possible were protected”.

Greenacre argues the company was “still profitable” at the time, although its profitability was declining. “We knew not all jobs would be protected [and] unprofitable shops and businesses would close”, he says. But he said only about 15 shops “were losing significant money”.

Thomas Cook this month announced the closure of 195 shops – 103 of them Co-operative Travel branches – and is in consultation over the loss of 2,500 jobs.

Greenacre acknowledges the seriousness of Cook’s financial situation, but pleads: “Make certain the branches on the closure list really have no future.”

He says in his experience “less business transfers [to other branches] when a shop closes than you think”.

He also advises Cook to rethink the policy on cluster managers, saying: “This has been tried many times and never delivered.” Cook plans for assistant managers to run shops day to day, with ‘cluster managers’ having overall responsibility for two to five shops.

Greenacre’s biggest concern is the future of The Co-operative Travel brand.

“There has been little commentary about the part The Co-operative Travel will play in the long term,” he says.

A Thomas Cook spokesman said: 
“We are absolutely committed to The Co-operative Travel.”