Ben Bouldin has had a busy year. Within the past 12 months, Royal Caribbean’s UK and Ireland sales director has implemented the line’s new loyalty scheme, Club Royal, recruiting 6,500 agents to the programme – far more than the 3-4,000 initially anticipated – with plans to increase this to 8,000 by Christmas.
He has also personally hosted a number of these agents on several VIP days, which are offered to members of the scheme, including a trip to Paris, and has spent recent weeks preparing for the birthday celebrations of the scheme, which took place in Farnborough on Wednesday.
He believes Club Royal’s success – more than 50,000 bookings have been made through the programme this year – is down to its simplicity. The scheme revolves around a prepaid branded MasterCard, with £5 put on the card for every booking, which can be spent on anything “apart from petrol and gambling,” Bouldin grins.
The line also operates “booster months” with increased amounts offered in certain periods, while VIP and Red Letter day discounts awarded to members at random. “It was simple in its methodology, it’s easy to execute,” explained Bouldin. “It’s cost [us] a significant amount of money – it’s been a massive investment from the company, but it’s become one of the most widely recognised and loved schemes in the industry, and people love that they can use the money on whatever they want.”
In true Royal Caribbean style the line is keen to evolve the loyalty programme, and Bouldin reveals the scheme’s second year will see a number of new additions, which will “reaffirm what Club Royal is all about”.
This includes the introduction of a second-tier gold card, which will be awarded to the some 100 members of Club Royal who have earned more than £1,000 this year on their account, by the time of the scheme’s birthday (September 23). “It’s about supporting the agents that have focused and got behind the programme and made a massive difference to our business – they have delivered significant volumes to us,” Bouldin said.
Those with a gold card will be given extra bonuses – instead of £100 being given to them when they book their own Royal Caribbean cruise, as currently happens with the existing cardholders, gold card members will be given £300. “This goes some way to encouraging agents to try the product – they can spend the money on whatever they want, whether that’s a suitcase for their holiday or new clothes,” Bouldin said.
Gold card holders will also receive a £25 birthday bonus on their account, while they will enjoy additional bonus months, receiving extra money for bookings, on top of the bonus periods that are already offered to the existing blue card holders.
Bouldin said agents’ statuses would reset after September 23, giving everyone the chance to try to achieve gold card status again by this time next year – including the existing gold card holders. Meanwhile, he added that the line would also select 10 gold card holders to form a new Club Royal advisory panel, who will help “steer and add value to the programme”. “We want agent involvement in how the scheme evolves,” he said.
“They will meet every six months at a special gathering – we’re thinking that the first one will perhaps happen at a shipyard visit of Harmony of the Seas in December.” He added that different agents would be chosen each time.
“We want to make sure we get a mix of different agents, but they will all be frontline staff, because they’re the ones that are most familiar with the systems and product queries. “I’m hopeful that the extra incentives will encourage more people to strive to achieve gold card status, and it’s a way of us recognising that,” he added. Bouldin also stressed that the VIP and Red Letter day discounts would continue to be open to all members.
“We want to give all agents a chance, no matter how big or small. It’s about recognising everybody.” Big giveaway Meanwhile, Bouldin revealed another surprise – the launch of what he believes is the “biggest ever trade competition” – the Harmony Queue. “It’s an imaginative and fun initiative to win a travel agent place on a two-day Harmony of the Seas sailing in late May, for them and a fellow travel agent guest.
“We’re giving away 1,000 places in total. To enter, you will have to be a Club Royal member, and you’ll have to submit a picture of yourself to Clubroyal.co.uk The competition went live on Wednesday, and will close on March 1, 2016. “It’s designed to spark imagination about Harmony. It’s a great way to get what it’s going to be about out there.”
Other new initiatives including “Ben’s Blog” – a biweekly update from Bouldin to the trade on the latest goings on at Royal Caribbean, as well as his top tips and plans for the line.
Bouldin said there would also be new enhancements to the Cruising for Excellence programme, including new courses on Harmony and Ovation of the Seas and the Royal Suite Class. Club Royal members will have to stay up to date with the courses to remain within the scheme. It might have been a busy 12 months for Bouldin and Club Royal, but it seems both are set for an even busier year ahead.