Incentives to Book Early

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Susan SchaeferI think as a whole travel agents don’t like change. We tend to resist all change and complain vehemently, especially if we perceive the change as being anti-agent or anti-passenger. Case in point: starting September 1, 2016 Royal Caribbean is changing their discount offer for Crown & Anchor Society members. Currently, once you reach Platinum level or higher, you qualify for discounts off balcony and suite bookings. The amount of the discount is based on your Society membership level, and whether you book more than six months prior to departure (closer-in sailings receive a lower discount).

So what is changing? Starting on September 1, 2016, the discounts that Crown & Anchor Society members receive will be discontinued for bookings less than six months before departure, instead of just being a lower discounted amount. At first glance, the gut reaction of travel agents (and I’m guessing among passengers as well) has been that Royal Caribbean is taking something away from their loyal cruisers.

My reaction was different. For the past couple of years Royal Caribbean has been trying to entice passengers to book early. It’s been a battle, because after the economic downturn in 2008/2009, all of the cruise lines slashed prices and offered last minute “fire sale” deals in order to get people on their ships. The problem was that created a mindset in travelers’ minds: wait until the last minute and you’ll get better pricing. Since the economy has improved, the cruise lines have been diligently working to re-educate clients, getting them to book further out for the best prices and incentives. I see this change in the Crown & Anchor Society discounts as being in line with Royal Caribbean’s endeavors to get everyone, even past passengers, to book further out. With the current set up they still get discounts on close-in sailings, the only incentive being that they save a little more if they book further out. With the new policy, the incentive is greater; either you get a discount or you don’t. This can translate into a couple hundred dollar savings if they plan their cruises at least six months in advance.

Travel agents tend to jump the gun and see changes in the worst possible light, and this is no exception. Instead, we should try and keep an open mind, and try to see things from the perspective of the cruise lines. It’s in everyone’s best interest if passengers book their cruises further out. If this policy encourages booking earlier, is this a bad thing?

What do you think? Should cruise lines become more aggressive in their policies to encourage clients to book as early as possible?


Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations, she focuses on travel for 18 to 23-year-olds. Susan can be reached by email at susan@shipsntripstravel.com or by phone at (888) 221-1209.

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