Just four months into his new role as head of sales at P&O Cruises and Cunard, Chris Truscott has made his first splash with the trade.

A bonus commission scheme was always going to grab the headlines and could go some way to healing the scars left by Carnival UK’s commission cut to 5% in 2011.

But beyond the raw commercial terms, Truscott has also initiated a programme called Agent Matters, the title of which may raise a few eyebrows among battle-hardened Travel Weekly readers.

Cynics will regard it as tacit admission of the failings of the policies of a previous regime, but Truscott says it originates from an intense period of speaking to agents since he started.

Truscott came to occupy one of cruising’s hottest seats from the drinks industry – he worked at Pernod Ricard – untainted by decisions made by predecessors at the UK’s most iconic lines.

Speaking to Travel Weekly last week, he set out the following new four-pronged approach to woo agents.

Agent survey

The sister lines will seek the views of agents in an annual survey.

Truscott said: “We want input from the trade in a more substantive manner to understand what the mood music is and how we work with that going forward.

“Agents are really important to our business and we need to look at how we evolve that relationship.”

The operator will carry out the survey, which Truscott said would allow it to get the information back quickly.

“It won’t be a one-off activity. It will be annual, potentially six-monthly, so we can inform our approach and assess our progress,” said Truscott.

Email hotline

Agents can now directly email the sister cruise lines on agency.sales@cunardpocruises.com with any queries they have and Truscott said they would get a response within 48 hours.

“It’s a forum for agents to talk to us if they have questions or enquiries about how we can work together or shape opportunities,” he said. “The idea is to provide direct access for agents to the sales team.”

The move away from engaging with the trade through the Complete Cruise Solution trade arm brand is deliberate, added Truscott.

“Brands are fundamentally important to me in terms of my ethos. Carnival Corporation has some great brands, and agents are telling me that they recognise there are some great brands and they want to do more with them. My proposition is to help deliver that.”

Mutual benefits

“We want to work more with agents on ideas that have mutual benefits,” said Truscott. “We are going to be more proactive with our outbound communication.

“The feedback I have had is that agents want to work with us and there is an opportunity for us to engage more with agents and look at mutually beneficial opportunities.

“I’m really interested in hearing about opportunities to develop our businesses together. I’m open to looking at opportunities that will work for both parties. I’m not closed to anything.

“Clearly the benefits for the industry is growing the cruise market in a profitable and sustainable way for everyone, whether that’s making more from existing passengers, new opportunities, or both.”

Work closely with Clia

The P&O Cruises and Cunard brands have always supported cruising’s trade association, but Truscott said backing for the trade body would become a vital plank of his strategy since its recent revamp as Clia UK & Ireland.

Now part of an international cruise-only organisation, Clia has both a clear focus on the cruise sector and the ability to influence direction outside of the UK as well as within.

Truscott said: “I see we have a job to help support the industry in partnership and collaboration with other cruise lines and agents for the greater good.”

Clia’s aims to identify cruise customers, engage agents and raise the industry’s profile “resonate with the area of the business I look after,” said Truscott. “Why would I not be involved and support that?”