The Association of Cruise Experts is continuing to attract new travel agent members despite the ongoing recession.
Director of business development Andy Harmer said there had been an increase in membership numbers in February, March and April of five agencies a week on average. ACE has around 3,000 agencies signed up in total, compared to 700 in 2007.
The increase is despite the difficult economic conditions, which have forced some agencies out of business.
Harmer said: “We are losing some members because of the economic conditions but net we have increased numbers. We have also held our membership fees at last year’s levels.”
He attributed the rise to agents realising the potential of specialising in cruise. “I think some people are seeing certain agents doing well out of cruise and thinking it’s time to get serious about it.”
The organisation is planning a survey of all its members for the first time to gauge agent feedback on how it operates. “ACE is a completely different animal to what it was two years ago when it was still doing classroom training,” he added. ACE trained 20,000 agents online last year and anticipates more will use its web courses this year.
Meanwhile, ACE’s convention in June will have sessions to help agents through the current recessions and its roadshows are to run in Dublin and Belfast in June, which will include the chance to tour Norwegian Jade and meet other cruiselines, and in Portsmouth later in the year.
More agents will also be encouraged to take part in the second National Cruise Week. This year it takes place from September 20-27. Agents will be able to register their events on ACE’s website and will be provided with point-of-sale material. Last year 1,000 agents hosted events. “We will try to get more agents doing events and hopefully we will support them better,” added Harmer.