Adolfo Perez, a 33-year veteran of Carnival Cruise Lines, started his new role as the company’s v.p. of trade sales and marketing this month. Recommend had a chance to catch up with him this week to get the scoop on what changes he plans to bring to his new role, and what that means for travel agents.
Michelle Marie Arean (MMA): Welcome to your new role. So tell us, how do you feel about your new position as v.p. of trade sales and marketing, even if it’s only been a couple of weeks?
Adolfo Perez (AP): Thank you for the welcome and, of course, for your time. I am so excited about my new role at Carnival. I’ve always had an appreciation for travel agents over the course of my three decades here with Carnival and thought this job could be the perfect fit. So, I decided to throw my hat into the ring and I am so happy that I was selected to take on this new role at Carnival. It has been a pretty intense first couple of weeks. I can’t begin to tell you the number of e-mails, reports, and meeting requests I’ve gotten since I started. But I love it. I’m listening a lot and I’m learning a lot. I’ve just scratched the surface…I have so much more to do and learn.
MMA: We know you’re still settling in, but we’d like to know, what changes, if any, do you plan to make in your new position?
AP: I don’t think I know enough yet to tell you I’m going to change X, Y, or Z. I can tell you that my guiding principle in my new role is that my job is to be the trade’s advocate at Carnival. Over the next few months, we will be looking at everything, and my goal will be to focus on how do we continue to improve on how we support agents. I will absolutely represent travel agents at all of our internal meetings and I take that responsibility very seriously. At our sales meetings in London, we always set a chair in the room with a sign that says “travel agent,” so we never forget who we’re representing internally. I plan on bringing that from across the Atlantic.
MMA: You had a close relationship with the travel agent community in your managing director role for Carnival’s UK office, are there any changes you plan to bring with you in your new role that will benefit the agent community?
AP: One of the things that I thought was very successful in the UK was our relationship with the trade. My team and I spent a lot of time working with agents, being accessible, and being true business partners. I think accessibility and communication are key to any relationship, and in my role in the UK, and that was one of the cornerstones of our approach to the trade. That will be my approach here, as well.
MMA: Are there any new marketing initiatives or programs for Carnival in the pipeline? Especially any geared for travel trade and the agent community?
AP: Stay tuned—more to come.
MMA: Fathom is a fantastic new concept for the Carnival brand. How do you see this new brand taking shape moving forward? What benefits do you see it bringing to both travelers and Carnival?
AP: From my point of view, fathom is a perfect brand and travel concept for the 21st century. Today, more and more people are concerned about their impact on the world. You see eco-travel growing as a way for people to minimize their impact on the environment, you see people paying for carbon offsets when they fly, and now you have fathom—a way you can reconnect with your family, friends and loved ones, enjoy your time off and make an impact on the lives of people while you’re doing so. I can’t think of something more rewarding than that. It really gives you a purpose in life.
MMA: What should agents take away from the new fathom brand to better market it to their customers?
AP: There is an untapped market of people who want to travel with a purpose. Much of the research shows that, in particular, millennials are looking for ways to make a difference in the world. Parents are also looking for ways to open their children’s eyes to other parts of the world and teach them the importance of giving back in a meaningful way, while older adults are looking for a unique way to make a difference. Now travel agents have a place to send their clients who truly want to make an impact on the world.
MMA: What recommendations do you have for agents when selling the Carnival brand that can help them grow their business? And how can they work better with Carnival?
AP: There are many ways travel agents can grow the business with Carnival. I would recommend that if they haven’t already, they should register on goccl.com. Not only do we make booking a Carnival cruise really easy through our booking engine, but we also have an award-winning training portal that we call Passport. Education is key to selling a product, and we make it simple to learn. Whether it’s our online resources or our in-person trainings and seminars at sea, learning about Carnival is the first step in growing their business. In addition to the training we offer, we also offer marketing support. Agents can customize flyers, download banners, order brochures, and find other marketing collateral to help them reach their clients in a more effective way. Our BDMs can also help them put together sales plans and give them advice on what works to drive business into their agency.
MMA: How do you think the travel agent role is changing or evolving in today’s marketplace?
AP: Travel agents are an amazing resource of knowledge and experience in travel and I think they have evolved into much more of consultative role and a true partner to their clients. Simply said, travel agents make travel easy. Although I’ve always had an appreciation for the trade, my appreciation was made even greater when I was living in London and had to plan a trip for my son and I in Europe. I quickly realized I didn’t have the knowledge or the time to figure this whole trip out. So I contacted a travel agent and she took care of everything for me. All I had to do was give her my credit card number. It took so much stress out of the planning process that I used her again the following year when I took my sons to Iceland. We’re all so busy today—it makes so much sense to use an agent.
MMA: What role do agents play for Carnival?
AP: Early on in my career when I was a reservations agent, I quickly learned how hard a travel agent’s job really is and how important they are to our overall success at Carnival. Times have changed, but my beliefs haven’t changed. We wouldn’t be where we are today without the outstanding support we have received from travel agents over the past 43 years and we certainly cannot continue to grow and succeed without their support now and in the future.
MMA: If there’s anything we missed that you’d like to share with us regarding your new role, the agent community, or just something you’d want us to know.
AP: I think you covered it all…thanks!