There’s plenty to talk about – ship launches, agent visits, even a ‘revolution’. To say it’s a busy time for Celebrity Cruises would be an understatement. And, as Nicola McNeish, head of sales at Celebrity Cruises, explains in an exclusive chat with Cruise Trade News, it’s all about engaging trade partners in new and creative ways, including with a silent disco.
Tell me more about your role at Celebrity?
I’ve been in this role since January 2017. My job is dedicated to trade sales, making sure our trade partners are provided with all the tools they need to sell Celebrity Cruises.
We have a team of six regional sales managers who are focused on the high street part, they report to me, and I also work closely with the strategic account managers who look after the cruise specialists.
With so much going on at Celebrity – Celebrity Edge ship launch, Celebrity Revolution, and so on – how important is it to ensure your relationship with trade is up to date and relevant?
It’s such an exciting time, with Edge launching at the end of this year, Celebrity Flora in May 2019, the Celebrity Revolution, which is across the entire fleet, and the steel cutting of the Celebrity Apex. Therefore, it’s crucial our partners have the tools they need to sell Celebrity with confidence.
What agents have told us in the past is that they want short, bite size training and content they can forward on to customers. We try to cover all bases, with lots of things through social media, to provide the right information.
You also have an upcoming agent shipyard visit to see Edge. Can you tell me more?
Celebrity Edge will be the epitome of modern luxury, so what we wanted to do was bring trade partners on a journey with us and really showcase the product and why guests should book with Celebrity.
We’re giving 40 trade partners a little sneak preview on the 13 September.
How important is it to have a balance between using things like social media and having the physical interaction, such as shipyard visits?
Obviously in an ideal world we would love to get everyone onboard to see the product first-hand, but that’s just not realistic.
We have the visit in September and we will also take some agents to the launch in December, and we have Edge coming to the UK next May. For that we are planning a two-night trade sailing, where we will try to get as many agents on board as possible.
We will be revealing more about that soon, but the plan at the moment is something whereby they have to earn a place to get on it. It will be the hottest ticket in town.
In addition, we have a dedicated training team, so we try to make sure that, where we can’t get agents on board, we bring the experience to life as much as we can on land.
Our training is quite experiential. For example we’ve held silent discos, where in between songs you get information about Celebrity.
We’re trying to bring the experience to life. With any type of training, we try to stay clear of powerpoint in order to make it as engaging as we can. The more you get people engaged in the product, the better.
Is it a challenge to make it engaging?
I would like to think we’re very innovative and constantly trying to think of new ways of training.
How do you think of ideas?
I would say it is normally bouncing ideas around within the team. We have a monthly meeting to think of ideas and how we can be more creative.
I’m sure as we get nearer to the time of other Edge-class ship launches, we will look to get more trade partners on. We want to bring Celebrity to life.
Tell us more about the Celebrity Revolution.
We’re spending $500m to revolutionise every ship in the fleet. It’s the biggest modernisation project we’ve ever done, in order to bring consistency across the fleet. We want the trade to understand that we will have the same feel and atmosphere on all ships.
For example, there’s the Le Petit Chef, which is a very small virtual chef that comes alive at the table – it’s really creative and will be brought in across the entire fleet.
How do you think your relationship with trade will evolve over the coming years?
I feel quite passionately about this – it’s all about keeping people involved and talking to them.
While it’s difficult to predict how it is going to change, I would say the one thing that we are big advocates of is keeping the trade involved right from the outset.
Within the last 12 months we have created a travel panel to talk about what’s working well and what might need to change. What do we do going forward? For me it’s about talking and maintaining close relationships.
Why is cruising so popular?
Value for money. For example, when you look at what is in the Celebrity Revolution, it gives a lot of the suites a real boutique feel, which, in my view, rivals a lot of what land-based hotels can offer.
The quality of our food, entertainment and facilities – why wouldn’t you cruise? Our trade partners have helped us bring that to life for new customers.