It’s the little things that matter. Slow and steady wins the race. Pick your favorite fable and you likely will find some truth in the matter. Just look at the Card Mill/MLM issue. While not completely resolved, there have been countless small victories for the traditional travel agent. No one ever said it was going to be a swift victory. But, the fruits of the efforts of many are now beginning to show. But as I have said before, this industry has several battles and another one has just been won against the cruise lines.
Yes, I know the cruise lines are the secret to the success for many agencies, but we all have witnessed the deterioration of our bottom line as a result of their “funny math”. Cruise rates decline and non-commissionable fares increase. Net result? A financial loss. But one very influential group of people are fighting this war and seeing success. Travel Acquisitions Group (and their associated brands), led ably by Mike Batt and Roger Block have scored one for the agents. Regent Seven Seas has agreed to pay travel professionals a commission on the cost of the cruise including the formerly non-commissionable fares!
Roger Block made a case for this in his Point to Point column on Travel Research Online. And in a surprising (and some say gutsy) move, they positioned their cruise only brand, Cruise Holidays, to sell land based vacations. I believe that the threat (and make no mistake the cruise lines perceived this as a threat) of no longer claiming 95% market share from a cruise only franchise, was instrumental in RSSC’s decision. John Issa, Chairman of SuperClubs reinforced the value of a land based all inclusive vacation in a recent TRO column.
In a thank you letter recently sent to Mark Conroy, President of RSSC, Mike Batt says:
On behalf of Travel Acquisitions Group’s family of brands – including Travel Leaders, Cruise Holidays, Results! Travel, SeaMaster Cruises, Cruise Specialists and CruiseDeals.com – I want to personally extend our deepest appreciation to you and Regent Seven Seas Cruises for making the strategic decision to pay commissions to travel agents on the complete cost of a cruise for 2010.
Regent Seven Seas has long been celebrated for its excellence in offering one of the most extraordinary cruise experiences available anywhere. Now, we believe you should also be duly recognized and applauded for your excellent leadership in working within the industry to ensure that your partners are appropriately paid, well-trained and highly motivated. As you know, we have publicly advocated that cruise lines pay commissions on port charges, government fees, taxes and included shore excursions for some time. By making the strategic decision to do just that for all 2010 cruises, Regent Seven Seas deserves both our gratitude and our business.
And, in a letter to the executives of the other cruise lines, Batt offered the following admonition:
Given the current economic climate it’s more important than ever that we work together to continue to build the Cruise market. We need to encourage new cruisers to join the family, at the same time doing all we can to keep existing customers coming back to a quality product that we all passionately believe in. In tough times, cruise prices are understandably cut and the resulting commission reductions are having a devastating impact on the economics of the travel agency distribution channel. I’m asking you to consider following Regent in order to help protect your prime distribution channel so we can continue to support you in the same way we have over the past 25 years.
Speaking for TAG, I am sincerely grateful for the investments that you and the rest of our Cruise suppliers have made in creating world class cruise vacation products for our customers. The Cruise Industry has done so much to assist the travel agency community, and I believe we all appreciate the opportunity that has been provided for us. I’m not one to ask for something for nothing – I very much hope you view the travel agency community as a key strategic asset that will be a critical partner in helping you fill ships and optimize returns at a time when you most need it.
Your active support will be appreciated, but more importantly it will keep motivated travel agents in the market selling cruises growing your business in the most difficult of times.
I could not agree more and I personally thank Mike and Roger for fighting this battle and congratulate them on this victory. An additional thank you from me is also extended to Mark Conroy and his team at Regent Seven Seas Cruises for recognizing the importance of the travel agent channel in their (and our) success! The TRO hat is off to these three executives and it goes without saying that when a travel professional has a client looking for a luxury cruise, the search should begin and end with Regent Seven Seas Cruises! So, to the rest of the cruise lines…how bout it?