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Travel, Singapore

Melissa Lin
Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014

Travel, Singapore

Cruise industry faces headwinds

The Straits Times | Melissa Lin | Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014

SINGAPORE - A reluctance amongst travel agents here to get staff trained to sell cruise packages could take the wind out of Singapore's bid to ride on a growing market, say industry players.

The National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (Natas) said it is a problem they hope to address by working with cruise companies to run networking and training sessions.

"Some agents do not yet realise the potential for growth and the importance of the cruise industry," said Natas chief operating officer Anita Tan in response to queries from The Straits Times.

There were about 1.2 million Asian cruise passengers in 2012, said the 2012 Cruise Industry News Annual Report, and this is expected to hit 3.7 million in 2017.

But high costs of training, high staff turnover and the view that cruise products are too complex to sell have put many agencies here off sending staff for classes.

Princess Cruises launched an online training school for travel agents here last May.

So far, only about 200 - out of about 1,100 licensed travel agencies here - have signed up, said its South East Asia director Farriek Tawfik.

The lack of training is not just a problem in Singapore, but across Asia where the industry is still in its infancy, he added.

Ms Mona Foo, Royal Caribbean Cruises (Asia) head of sales for Singapore, said: "A number of them still think that the cruise product is too complex, (as it involves) different ships, cabin categories and dining arrangements."

For agents, memorising the various routes and the differences between the ships is the hardest, said CTC Travel's marketing manager Kelly Loh.

"Agents have to "match each brand and ship to the different customer profile".

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