MSC Cruises UK and Ireland sales director Steve Williams has been named the new chair of Clia’s trade engagement working group.
He takes over from out-going chair, Avalon sales director Janet Parton, who completed her two-year term.
Williams said he and the other members of the trade engagement working group had a “golden opportunity” to support the trade following one of the toughest year’s in the sector’s history.
“I don’t think our task has ever been bigger to assist agents. Things are not normal. The trade is not in a normal place. Unfortunately, we will have lost a lot of talent from our industry, and a lot of others will have been on furlough for a lot – or even all – of the last 10 months. Some will still be on furlough.
“People’s skills diminish over time if they are not selling cruises day in, day out. Plus, the pace of change in the industry, especially at the moment, is phenomenal. Just look at Saga announcing this week that it will require passengers to be fully vaccinated against Covid before they sail. Things are moving and changing all the time,” he said.
“There are so many new protocols and changes and every cruise line is going to have nuances that agents need to be aware of – and if you have been fully or partly furloughed in this period, you’re going to come back to an industry you don’t recognise.”
Williams said he would be ramping up the frequency of the trade engagement working group’s meetings to monthly, rather than every third month, to keep up with the rate of change.
And he is appealing for the support of agency head offices to make it possible for the group to train even those agents who remain on furlough.
“We want to put on webinars and training events for everyone – even those who aren’t able to work at the moment. It’s crucial they keep up to speed too, but we may need some help and support from their head offices to enable this,” said Williams.
And he said supporting agents with some more fun activities to keep them connected and engaged was also important and in his plans.
“The function of the trade engagement working group is to drive sales through agents, but there is also a support role which we think we can do more of. Everyone in the group is incredibly experienced and has a wealth of knowledge, so if people just want some advice or a chat to pick them up, then we will be there for that too,” he said.
Members of the Clia trade engagement group include:
Geoff Ridgeon, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
Connie Georgiou, Silversea
Torey Kings-Hodkin, Royal Caribbean
Wendy Lahmich, Holland America Line & Seabourn
Jamie Loizou, AmaWaterways
Janet Parton, Avalon and Cosmos Tours and Cruises
Iain Powell, Saga
Jessica Shelton-Agar, APT
Ruth Venn, P&O Cruises
Luke Smith, Carnival Cruise Lines
Claire Stirrup, Celebrity Cruises
Rachel Poultney, Princess Cruises
Shane Riley, Virgin Voyages