I just went grocery shopping yesterday and being the trained dog that I am, I dutifully swiped my bonus card, got my discount, and sent a wealth of information to the grocery store headquarters. They now know they need to have The Enquirer and The Star in their checkout aisles just for me! Actually, the bonus card has been good for me. I have benefited with a few gallons of free gas, some free milk, and several coupons worth 10% off my entire purchase. I am sure they have also benefited in terms of knowing what their customers want and need. I am sure most of you have similar programs. But what happens when you receive a letter that says
“Dear Customer. Thank you for being so loyal for all these years and allowing us to get to know your buying habits and a lot about you. The time has come to sell all this information to another party and we just wanted to let you know that shortly you will be bombarded with coupons, phone calls, and letters from all of our partners trying to sell you their stuff. Once again, thanks for your business—keep up the good work!”
Well, I know I’d be livid. They used me!
Over the years, travel professionals and our clients have slowly been giving the suppliers similar information. The cruise lines know what cabins our clients like, what wine and drinks they enjoy, what they purchase, the type of shore excursions they like, how much they complain (or don’t) how much they are willing to drop in the casino and much more.
With the advent of the Internet and email, contacting clients is easier than ever. Just last week, an agent was complaining on the TRO Community that Carnival’s call center agents were calling back consumers with the hard sell if a deposit was not made.
This is not too surprising as I have felt that we are essentially playing a game of travel chess and the end game is a net pricing environment along with a strong direct to consumer market for the vendors.
Carnival Cruise Lines just made a move last week. Some of you may be aware of it, but I bet the vast majority are not. While you were tending to your business, your client’s received the following email:
Dear Valued Guest,
We are very excited about many of the specials our affiliated cruise companies have to offer. Therefore, Carnival Cruise Lines would like to share your registration and profile information with our affiliated cruise companies including:
• Costa Cruises,
• Cunard Line,
• Holland America Line,
• Princess Cruises, and
• The Yachts of Seabourn.
You have the ability to limit our affiliated companies from marketing their products to you by sending your:
• First name, last name, mailing address and/or email address along with past guest number, if applicable, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Or mail: Carnival Cruise Lines, Attn: Affiliate Opt-Out, 3655 NW 87th Avenue Miami, FL 33178.
For guests who travelled together and used a single e-mail address, if the owner of the e-mail address makes an Affiliate Opt out request, all guests who traveled under that e-mail address will also be deemed to have opted out.
Carnival Cruise Lines
So, Carnival Cruise Lines, the largest cruise line in the world, is now taking your client information and automatically opting them into a program where their sister brands can solicit them at will. Do you think your agency will be copied on any email correspondence? Do you think the call to action will be “call your agent”?
Many people think I am barking up the wrong tree with my vision of a net and direct to consumer travel market. I hope I am wrong, but in case I am not, are you ready?