Agents at Clia UK & Ireland’s Selling Cruise Conference have been encouraged to innovate and try new things or risk their business “going rotten”.

Texan-born Dondra Ritzenthaler (pictured), senior vice president of sales and trade support at Celebrity Cruises, told delegates to “stop with the stinking thinking” and “get innovating”.

She said: “It’s the people that aren’t afraid to take risks and the people who are deemed crazy that are the most successful, and that applies to our world with selling cruises too. You must be innovative – you have to be different.

“You have to stand out; you can’t be like anyone else because you have to be the green apple among the bushels of red apples.

“If you’re still doing business the same way you were five years ago you are not only a red apple but you’re rotten. You have to evolve. It’s okay to try something and not be perfect – take a chance and don’t be afraid.”

Ritzenthaler encouraged agents to target millennials (those born after 1980) and to appeal to that audience base, claiming they spend $226 million on travel and use travel agents more than anyone else.

“You may think millennials aren’t relevant to your business because that isn’t the age range you’re going after,” she said. “But I need to correct you because the phenomenon that’s happening in all businesses including travel is that everyone is marketing to the millennials.

“Millennials use travel agents more than anybody else and you wouldn’t intuitively think that. 18% of the world uses a travel agent but 28% of millennials use a travel agent.”

She said it was important that agents use their expertise to show off the experience of cruising rather than the price.

Ritzenthaler said: “You have to be the expert and going out there with the price doesn’t make you the expert – you’re the expert when you know what you’re talking about.

“You have to have passion and love what you do. Make sure you remember that you are valuable and don’t give your commission away, keep it because you deserve it.”