Travel agents should seriously consider which cruise lines they work with longer term and whether to introduce £50 fees to pay for the paperwork involving in booking.
Aito specialist agents chairman Oliver Broad, speaking at this year’s domestic conference, said he was “sick to death” of being paid 5% commission for booking a cruise while having to pay an increasing amount on stationery to provide ticket wallets and paperwork to customers.
“Stationery costs have gone up. Maybe we should charge £50 to accept a cruise booking for the larger cruise companies?” said Broad, who claimed his own agency has never discounted cruise bookings.
“We [Robert Broad Travel] didn’t discount in the first place and now we are selling the same products at the same price but we are not making 12%, we are making 5% so it’s hugely frustrating.”
He admitted some agents were happy with the commission reductions because it had stopped retailers discounting and created a level playing field for smaller agents to compete in.
The comments follow the recent moves by operators such as Norwegian Cruise Line to slash agency commissions.
Broad said independent agents now had to question whether booking certain cruise lines was worthwhile and whether charging a fee was the only way to sustain cruise bookings.
“You have to ask whether charging a fee would a more sustainable way of working. The paperwork and time involved in processing and printing off a cruise booking for a group of ten can take half a day,” he added.
Broad urged agents to think about their future business models.
“It’s not about making a quick buck, it’s about sustaining the business longer term,” he said. “By the time you’ve added in the costs of the reduced commission, you are making less and you have to decide if you want that booking.”
But he urged Aito agents to support the association’s affiliate partner The Cruise Portfolio and other supportive cruise lines which were not cutting commission.
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