Agents who “shout the loudest with the cruiselines” will get the best deals, according to Carnival UK chief operating officer Peter Shanks.
Speaking at the Future of Cruising session at the Association of Cruise Experts UK Cruise Convention in Dover this week, Shanks said the market is tough for everyone.
However, he insisted agents can get a slice of the growing market as well as compete with hefty cruiseline discounts and on-board credit.
Shanks said: “It’s hard for us too because we can’t control the prices other cruiselines are charging. But at least the cruise industry is growing.”
He said about 1.5 million Britons will take a cruise this year, and that figure is expected to reach two million by 2012.
Virgin Holidays Cruises managing director Robin Deller agreed the discount culture is annoying, but said it will not go away, so agents should instead work on selling clients the dream.
He said: “Once we know a client’s expectations, we build a package around them. We have to work within their budget, but by adding value and focusing on the experience, the price becomes more irrelevant.
“We are always going on about the size of ships or the passenger capacity, but clients really want to know about the experience – things they can relate to, such as the food and the entertainment.”
Carnival Cruise Lines UK managing director Lynn Narraway said by creating a package for customers, including pre- or post-cruise stays, agents can offer something different.
Hurtigruten sales and marketing director Kathryn Beadle said the cruise industry gets too hung up on price when it should be concentrating on the value.