There are many different cruise companies all wanting travel agents to sell their product. We needed a way that would develop the travel agents knowledge about Celebrity Cruises in, not only a unique and different way, but one that would really help them understand the essence of the brand. Looking at different methods of training and development we decided to trial experiential learning which pulls on as many of the senses as possible to create a unique and effective way of learning. We believe this development method leaves lasting memories with the travel agents and enables them to fully understand what they are selling.
Immediate impact is evident in the travel agent community with these experiential days being talked about and further similar events being requested. The figures also show a 20% increase in cruise bookings year on year, as a result of these sessions. Following on from these development sessions, we decided to take it one step further and actually conduct some of these experiential sessions onboard our ships, using onboard activities and coaching skills to get the most from the agents.
We created these sessions to stand out from the crowd and bring something new to travel industry professionals used to many training sessions, not only on cruise, but on many other areas of travel. Examples include having artificial grass to represent the Lawn Club onboard on which learners play croquet; Elemis products used in our onboard spas which learners test and use; and even interactive cocktail-making sessions. All of this creates a more real awareness of what’s onboard. In essence we are implementing highly interactive training to engage and excite agents’ passion and drive to sell cruises.[/one_half_last]
As the first few sessions were trial sessions, there are a few challenges which we have identified and continue to work on. Firstly, striking an effective balance between experiential activities, and the actual training element in these sessions. We are continually tweaking the implementation of the experiential element of our training sessions, being mindful of time constraints. Additionally we must ensure that these sessions lead to increased sales (our ultimate goal) and the need to prove this. Evaluation is an ongoing project as there are many factors in the industry which prevent solid and consistent reporting of return on investment.
Taking our training interventions to the next level demonstrates a two-pronged approach: staying ahead of our competitors as well as having a real, lasting impact on our learner groups. By sharing this innovative approach with training industry peers, we hope it will excite trainers and get them to think about their delivery style, and to create an experiential learning environment by adding tangibly interactive elements into training interventions. We strongly believe that this tried and tested method of learning is hugely effective: we are using an ‘ultimate blended’ training approach benefitting all learning types and engaging the entire target audience.[/one_half_last]
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Training Manager, Michelle Russell, created Cruising for Excellence in 2003 for the UK & Ireland markets after seeing a gap in the training we provided to travel agents. Alongside a team of passionate trainers, she has been able to prove how training can be a key driver in the education and brand awareness of ‘cruising’. Michelle has a truly dedicated and driven training team who all have great ideas and this in particular, has made our elearning programme to date, so successful. The elearning model has grown to become the a key training success and seen the program launch globally in 13 languages. In addition, the focus on face to face training has increased to marry the two and bring to life our unique products through experiential learning.