Steve Odell Steve Odell

Depleted distribution workforce concern for cruise

Workforce issues across a number of areas, including in the travel agency community, are the biggest challenges facing the cruise sector right now, according to panellists at the Cruise 360 conference in Sydney.

Steve Odell, senior vice-president and managing director, Asia Pacific of Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises, says some of his biggest concerns are around the distribution channel.

‘How do we sell cruise and who do we sell it with? We are 60% down on travel advisors (in Australia) and a lot of the doyens of the industry have retired or have gone on to different things. We now have a lot of new travel advisors so we have to build up the number of cruise specialists by training these people.’

Odell says there is clearly heavy demand on travel agents and not enough people to handle that demand so CLIA and the cruise lines individually have to support the training efforts to fill the distribution void.

‘We’ve had a lot of disruption with airlines, handling credits and refunds etc. Now we have to get back to place where we are engaging positively and up-skilling people.’

Marguerite Fitzgerald, president of Carnival Australia and P&O Cruises Australia, says her concerns in terms of human resources extend beyond distribution. 

‘Things are just starting up here (in Australia and New Zealand) and we don’t really know what is left in the community to support the cruise industry. That is something I am concerned about.

‘What happens when the cruise ships turn up at the end of the year. What do our customers do if there are not enough coach drivers or specialist tour operators? Will the retailers be open?’

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