Carnival Cruise Line has shifted the focus of its sales team in the UK 100% onto agents and away from direct-sell channels.

Iain Baillie, vice-president for UK and international sales, confirmed the UK office would sell only through agents from the new year as he revealed the operator’s proportion of direct sales in the UK was in single figures.

Baillie took on his current role last week after stepping up from managing director for UK sales.

He said: “All our focus is on the trade due to their [agents’] historic support and partnership over the years, as well as their customer reach, which allows Carnival to continue to be successful. The trade has really added value to our business and found ways to differentiate our offering to customers in the UK market.”

As a consequence, Baillie said: “We will be dialling down other UK sales channels and focusing on the UK trade. All of our staff with sales connections will now be 100% trade-focused.” Baillie confirmed this meant the UK sales team would no longer be representing the business at any consumer cruise or holiday shows.

The only possible direct sales will be through the cruise line’s Miami call centre, which will remain open and could take a UK direct booking, but Baillie suggested this was unlikely.

A Carnival Cruise Line spokesperson in the US said: “We are going to be focusing nearly all of our marketing efforts through the trade rather than through consumers direct. This is a decision we have made in the UK because we feel that marketing through our agent partners is more effective in our particular case.”

The line said consumers may still “receive marketing messages directly ‎from time to time”.

He was due to announce the move along with the launch of a ‘Travel Agents Rock’ campaign at an agent appreciation event in Newbury on Wednesday.

The campaign includes a loyalty scheme for agents – the ‘Loyalty Rocks Club’ – offering rewards on all bookings, as well as a new training portal and a chance for agents to win a trip to Ibiza.

The rewards scheme will offer points redeemable for high street vouchers, holidays, gifts orexperiences, with minimum earnings of £1 per booking. Agents who enrol this week will earn £10 per booking until December 31.

A new online training programme, Carnival Cruise Line University, will also launch this month, accessible through the Carnival booking portal.

The cruise line has partnered with Ibiza Rocks during the peak‑booking wave period in the new year to offer 15 agents the chance to experience the Balearic hotel next June. The offer is in association with Travel Weekly.

Agents who enrol and book a Carnival cruise during the wave period from January 1 will enter a draw for the chance to win a place.

Carnival also plans to double the number of fam trips it offers next year from eight to 16.

Baillie said: “Our agent partners have been integral to Carnival’s success. We’re always looking at ways we can improve our working relationship and areas where we can assist our agent partners and the business they do for us.”

At a glance: Carnival initiatives

• Travel Agents Rock! is Carnival Cruise Line’s new campaign to focus fully on working with the UK trade in 2017.

• The Loyalty Rocks Club is a new way for agents to earn rewards when they book Carnival Cruise Line.

• Carnival Cruise Line University is its new online training programme, through which agents can learn about its fleet, itineraries and how to sell the product.

• All agents who sell a cruise during the wave period will be entered in a draw to win one of 15 places on a trip to Ibiza Rocks in June 2017.

• Carnival Cruise Line UK also hopes to work with agents looking to expand into global markets.