Specialist Canadian operator Rocky Mountaineer has become a member of trade association Abta to offer agents the security of dealing with it as a principal.
The rail operator, which packages up its trips with cruises and was one of the main sponsors of today’s Ace Columbus Day Cruise Convention, says the move will allow it to broaden its distribution.
Agents now have the choice of packaging up Rocky Mountaineer’s rail-only and rail and cruise packages, selling its flight-inclusive packages or selling packages from other operators and cruise lines.
Lesley Peden, EMEA sales director, said the operator was targeting cruise specialists as well as using its product to introduce cruise to agents who have not previously sold cruise.
“It’s taken us a year to get through the Abta vetting process so that shows our commitment to trade partners and that we are prepared to support them.
“Travel agents have always had the ability to book Rocky Mountaineer but in the current climate I felt strongly the we had to reassure the trade that adequate financial protection is in place.
“They can now sell us with the confidence that we are Abta bonded.”
Rocky Mountaineer delayed the launch of its new brochure, now with sterling pricing, until its Abta membership was confirmed so it could add the logo.
Peden said one of the big benefits for cruise specialists to work with Rocky Mountaineer is that it takes cruise capacity from a global pool, so when cabins dedicated to the UK market start running low agents can tap into another source.
He also said they can earn good commission, equivalent to the levels that used to be on offer before recent reductions, and on the entire cruise and rail package.
Peden said that around half the people on Rocky Mountaineer’s departures are now cruise passengers taking the trip as part of their holiday.
He said the operator was outperforming the market this year seeing growth in the low double digits, when the long-haul market is otherwise down by around 9%.
Having launch its 2013 range a month earlier that usual on June 1 to coincide with cruise launches, the operator is up 13%, said Peden, although it remains to be seen if this is just down to an earlier booking pattern.
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