P&O Cruises and Cunard have increased base commission to 7.5%, but denied the previous move to 5% was a mistake.

The change, which is effective from Monday, comes almost three years after parent Carnival UK slashed the base rate to 5% to combat discounting.

That move was slammed by many agents, who said it was not enough to make money, but Carnival UK insisted stabilising pricing dealt a decisive blow to the discount culture in cruise retailing.

Sales director Chris Truscott (pictured) said 7.5% was competitive compared with rivals as fares included more non‑commissionable elements.

“The move to 5% reduced discounting dramatically. Had commission been moved to another [higher] level, would it have achieved that? Possibly not. While it was clearly a difficult thing for agents, there were a lot of positives.

“What’s right at one point in time does not mean it has to stay that way for ever. We took a stand and being a leader in anything is not easy.

“As a responsible supplier we need to make sure we develop the cruise market from the point of view of long-term sustainability, not just short-term gain.

“Was it easy for us to do? No. Do I think it was something that needed to be addressed at the time? Yes.”

Truscott has been in the role for nine months, joining amid a wave of new senior faces at Carnival UK. The operator has since ushered in a series of enhancements to trade support.

He said the new commission level was another example of the operator addressing feedback from agents, having introduced a new fare structure and made flights commissionable.

“It’s about recognising agent support,” Truscott added. “They want to support P&O and Cunard and want to be rewarded accordingly.”

Tailored agreements offering additional earning will continue to be agreed with individual agents targeting revenue growth rather than pure volume.

A new head of sales has been appointed for the two lines. Jeremy McKenna joins on January 2 from 
Royal Bank of Scotland.