MSC Cruises launches new travel agent ‘Serving You’ initiative

FORT LAUDERDALE — At a press conference held at the cruise industry’s top travel agent conference, CLIA’s Cruise3Sixty, MSC Cruises announced several new initiatives created specifically to underscore the line’s commitment to the travel agent community and its valued travel agent partners.

MSC True Partnerships, its long-standing travel agent program, is now adding a new ‘Serving You’ initiative that elevates MSC Cruises’ dedication to travel agents as it continues its expansion into the North American market. MSC True Partnerships has brought to the trade community MSC reward points for bookings that earn agents additional cash; paid commission on ancillary items such as shore excursions, transfers, air and hotel packages; a new and improved travel agent website, and an engaging and successful travel agent-dedicated Facebook page.

Richard E. Sasso, president, MSC Cruises USA, described the significance of the “human factor” as the key driver behind the new ‘Serving You’ initiatives. “First and foremost, we are making a significant investment by more than doubling our sales force so we have greater face-to-face interaction with our travel agent partners ensuring we work together to design and develop sales strategies for our mutual success,” he said.

Field Business Development Managers are being recruited to cover states in key regions of the country as well as Western Canada. In the Fort Lauderdale headquarters, a team of additional new Business Development Specialists have been added to the sales force to manage certain accounts via telephone and a separate new team of Sales Support Specialists to assist the Field BDMs with the needs of their accounts.

Sasso continued, “The best sales team in the industry is only half the battle. It is equally important that our valued travel agent partners get to know the individuals in our expanded sales roster.”

Ken Muskat, newly minted executive vice president of Sales, Marketing, PR and Guest Services, announced the launch of a 20-city MSC True Partnerships Serving You Roadshow that will hit key cities in the U.S. and Canada beginning in May through the end of the year. MSC’s executive team, led by Muskat, will lead the roadshows.

“Bringing the executive team to these cities to not only share the news about MSC but to also listen and learn is critical if we want to be successful in this market,” said Muskat.

“Recruiting the talent and building the platform is a crucial step,” he continued. “We are also committed to putting faces to names by introducing our new team to our travel partners to foster and strengthen these valuable relationships.”

Continuing the alliance between MSC Cruises and FIAT, MSC Cruises announced a first-ever joint promotion where one lucky travel agent and one lucky consumer will each win a brand new FIAT 500c POP, with a retail value of more than $21,000. This chic and fun-to-drive convertible blends Italian design with precision engineering, creating one of the hottest cars on the market.

“FIAT helped make a huge splash for the arrival of the MSC Divina when she sailed into Miami for the first time escorted by FIAT watercrafts,” said Muskat. “We knew this was the perfect match to showcase our Italian heritage and provide one fortunate travel agent with a piece of the ‘Mediterranean way of life’ to take home.”

Travel agents can enter to ‘Win a FIAT’ on new cruise bookings made beginning April 4 through May 18, 2014, on seven-night Caribbean sailings on board MSC Divina between Aug. 2, 2014 and Dec. 27, 2014. Once the booking is made, travel agents must register it on MSC Cruises’ travel agent website, msccruisesagent.com/fiatgiveaway. Eligible travel agents will receive one entry per stateroom booking when registered during the promotion period. Complete rules and entry details can be found at msccruisesagent.com/fiatgiveaway. Both the travel agent and consumer winners will be announced as part of a holiday celebration in late December of this year.

As a result of bringing new hardware and year-round presence of the MSC Divina to the North American market, the line has been more active than ever on the consumer marketing front with expanded presence in TV, outdoor and radio in key markets. Complementing increased efforts of social media and online advertising, the expanded marketing is designed to drive brand awareness of MSC Cruises among consumers, which will also help travel agents to promote and sell the brand.