“I would ask travel agents to always keep Irish Ferries in mind as a travel option for their customers – who may not think of it as an option initially, but they may well thank you for it afterward!” said Dermot Merrigan, Head of Passenger Sales, in an interview with Irish Travel Trade News about the company’s relationship with Irish travel agents and the impact of the recently introduced MV Epsilon.
Are there differences in the public’s use of travel agents when booking foot passenger ferry, car ferry, or holiday – or between services to Britain or France?
Whether a customer chooses to speak with their travel agent or to deal with Irish Ferries directly, there’s absolutely no difference whatsoever. As travel agents can now check availability and book most of our products online, the exact same instant service is on offer wherever a customer feels most comfortable.
What travel agents do provide is a local place and a local face with whom customers can discuss their travel plans – and this is very comforting to some who may be less familiar with our services. Just like ourselves, agents countrywide greatly value the importance of good customer service, so I know that our customers are in very good hands at all times.
How could agents increase income from bookings?
The range of travel destinations by air can sometimes be seen as the default option for customers looking to travel to Britain or France – and this I can understand. However, with individual baggage restrictions by air remaining as tight and as expensive as ever, it is worth remembering that travelling to Britain or France by car may tailor more suitably to some customers’ needs – and actually provide better value in the process!
France by ferry continues to grow more popular every year and our extra departures to Britain are helping our Irish Sea business to remain as reliable as ever. With our comfortable, modern ferries now providing increased departures and route options, we can easily see why taking a car by ferry is most definitely back in vogue.
I would ask travel agents to always keep Irish Ferries in mind as a travel option for their customers. Customers may not think of it as an option initially, but they may well thank you for it afterward!
How do agents benefit from registering with Agent Online?
Quite simply, when agents are registered online with Irish Ferries, they have instant access to check availability of our services, make new bookings directly to their account and recall their most recent reservations.
This service is available 24/7 of course, which means we are open for business whenever we are needed.
How would you describe Irish Ferries’ relationship with the travel trade?
Irish Ferries is extremely proud that our links with the Irish travel trade go back generations and we are delighted to still enjoy a fantastic working relationship with each other. The travel industry in Ireland has always been a hard-working, enthusiastic and energetic group of people, but it’s the closeness of this tightly knit community, of which we are a part, that I respect as its real strength.
We greatly appreciate the fantastic support we receive every year from travel agencies countrywide and I am honoured and delighted any time that we are lucky enough to be voted as their ‘Best Ferry Company’ at the annual Irish Travel Trade Awards.
In return, everyone at Irish Ferries, on shore and onboard our ships, continually strives to offer the very best service that agents’ hard-fought customers expect and deserve.
What impact have the new MV Epsilon services made?
The introduction of our Economy Class service with MV Epsilon twice daily on Dublin to Holyhead midweek and on our new overnight Dublin to Cherbourg route at the weekend has been a great success. It has brought a broadened range of services and frequency to our fleet for passenger traffic – and greater capacity and choice for our freight clients.
Alongside our Ulysses cruise ferry and Jonathan Swift fast craft, we now offer up to six sailings from Dublin to Holyhead from Tuesday to Friday. When you include the MV Isle of Inishmore on Rosslare to Pembroke, we now have up to eight sailings daily from Ireland to Britain.
However, the Epsilon’s big plus has been to facilitate our new route from Dublin to Cherbourg every Saturday. Departing Dublin at 3.30pm and arriving in Cherbourg the next day at 11.30am, this connects our capital city directly with France and has reduced driving times that many customers previously had to Rosslare.
Offering a no-frills experience compared to the luxurious and family-friendly Oscar Wilde, which sails from Rosslare, the Epsilon has still been an extremely popular choice with our customers to France this year.
We constantly assess all of our vessels, routes and schedules to ensure that we have the right mix in place and will continue to do so, but at this point we are very pleased with how the route has performed so far.
How is Irish Ferries working with agents in 2014?
We work closely every year with all agents, but mostly with the main consortia of Travel Centres, Worldchoice and Travelsavers, attending their respective conferences and helping their agents to improve their knowledge of our services.
I consider it very important that travel agents are familiar with our team and these conferences have been fantastic in enabling us to personally build up an excellent rapport with individual agency staff – a relationship that we very much value and enjoy.
My colleagues Marie McCarthy, Passenger Sales Manager, and Ann Pye, Holidays Manager, regularly circulate promotions and incentives, particularly on our inclusive holidays programme, and we are pleased to say that business via the trade this year is going very well indeed.