Are Restrictive Pricing Policies The Path To The End of Cruise Travel Agents?
Written by: Kuki
When first introduced by Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruise Lines they stated that the move was in reaction to requests lobbied for by travel agents. They said the majority of travel agents wanted a “level playing field”, to prevent the large discounting agencies from having a business advantage. In other words, they wanted the cruise lines to regulate the prices of cruises for them, to eliminate any competition between them based on price.
I believe the initiation of these flat-pricing policies has hurt the consumers who want to cruise by establishing set prices. But it was also the beginning of a trend, where the cruise lines vigorously encourage the consumer to bypass the travel agents, and book directly with the cruise lines. Of course, whenever a passenger books directly with the cruise line, the cruise line does not have to pay any travel agent commissions on the booking, and therefore the cruise line makes more profit on the booking.
While cruise lines continue to refer to travel agents as their travel partners, if I was their “partner”, I’d certainly be concerned about my partner trying to cut me out of any deal, and keeping the profit for themselves.
For the time being, certainly the majority of cruises are sold through travel agents. And it seems most travel agents are, for now, happy that the cruise lines are eliminating the competition between themselves, and those that were willing to discount from their commissions in order to make sales. But I believe they have failed to see they’ve created an entirely new competitor in their industry; the cruise lines.
In the case of some lines, they’ve taken the tact that if you visit the cruise lines web site, shortly after, you may actually be called by a sales representative from the cruise line, to follow up on selling you a cruise.
If you’ve booked through a travel agent, and call the cruise line for information regarding your booking, you’re now told that they “can’t” talk to you; that you must discuss it with your travel agent. This certainly strikes me as an attempt by the cruise lines to make the “road to your cruise” bumpier for you if you’ve booked with a travel agent.
The Travel Agent community is large, and as an organization, carries considerable weight within the cruise industry. But it seems to me they’ve been assisting the cruise lines to inevitably put that community out of business. Sure, for now, there will be customers who believe they need to use a travel agent to book their cruise vacations. I do hope I’m wrong, because I’ve always been an advocate for using travel agents, but I can see a path has been layed to drastically reduce the role of travel agents in the selling of cruises.
I hope that path doesn’t become a super highway, rolling right past the structures the travel agents used to occupy.
Your thoughts? Would you prefer that every cruise you can buy be the same price no matter where you book?
Travel agents – Do you see this coming? If not, can you explain why you think these types of pricing policies are a good idea?
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Posted: April 6th, 2010 under Paul Motter.