Feeling the Love | TravelResearchOnline


Feeling the Love

Susan SchaeferThis week, Dondra Ritzenthaler with Celebrity Cruise Lines was eager to announce the new loyalty rewards program they are rolling out.  In several webinars this week, Celebrity rolled out their new Celebrity Rewards program for travel agents.

Now, this isn’t necessarily new in the industry, but Celebrity is the first cruise line to offer this type of program.  In a nutshell, agents that enroll in the program will receive 500 reward points for every Celebrity booking that they book after January 1, 2017.  Once an agent earns 2,500 points, they can redeem it for $25 which will be sent to them in the form of a Celebrity Rewards MasterCard Plus.  The card is reloadable, so as you earn more points and redeem them (with 2,500 points being the minimum amount you can redeem) the money is simply loaded onto the card you have already been given.

Of course, you know there has to be some rules and restrictions.  Anyone can earn points, but you do have to be a Celebrity Five Star Academy graduate in order to redeem your points for cash.  You don’t earn the points until the booking reaches the final payment date (when cancellation penalties begin) and the booking has to be paid in full to Celebrity.  If you are the type that likes reading Terms and Conditions, the programs T&Cs can be found here:  https://register.celebrityrewards.com/terms-and-conditions.  Overall, it’s pretty straight forward.

As I said earlier, this isn’t new in the industry.  Several land suppliers like Goway Travel have offered something similar for years.  Book with them, and booking bonuses or incentives are paid out via a reloadable credit card.  But in the past it has only been land suppliers that have done this.  Cruise lines historically have offered bonus commissions along with other incentives (drawings for iPads, Apple TVs, etc.) to promote booking with them.

However, in many cases, there is a huge drawback to bonus commissions.  A lot of travel agents work through a host agency, which takes a percentage of commissions earned, including bonus commissions.  And with the drawings, it’s not necessarily an incentive to book with a supplier if all you get is a “chance” to win something.  Even those incentives that are “with 5 bookings we’ll give you XYZ” (like an Apple TV), it’s not an incentive if the travel agent doesn’t want to win an Apple TV.  Personally, I take anything that’s free and if I don’t want it, I usually know someone I can give it to as a gift.  But that’s beside the point.

This new rewards program is different for cruise lines.  It awards every booking, no matter how short or long the itinerary is, whether it’s an inside room or a suite.  It awards agents directly and not through host agencies that might take a cut.  And most importantly, it is cold hard cash that can be spent on whatever the travel agent wants the most.  So that agent that wants an Apple TV can get one, but the agent that doesn’t want an Apple TV can then spend the cash on dinner out, their own vacation, a new pair of shoes, etc.

I am excited to see what Celebrity does with this program in the future (possibly letting agents earn bonus points to promote certain sailings, etc.).

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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