Carnival UK has pledged to invest in trade support, but confirmed how it does so will not necessarily be in the same way as it did pre-Covid.

Speaking at the Travel Weekly Future of Travel Spring Forum, president Simon Palethorpe said Covid-19 had changed the way everyone works.

“The really interesting thing about the whole pandemic is that we’ve discovered all sorts of ways that we can work that we never dreamed were possible prior to the pandemic being with us,” he said.

“Who would have believed that we could do so much over Zoom or do so much working from home? It really is astonishing, and I think that’s going to challenge a lot of the ways in which we work in the future.”

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Asked if he would be building back up P&O and Cunard’s on the road agency sales team, which was reduced at the start of the pandemic, Palethorpe said: “I don’t see us necessarily going back to all of the ways in which we used to work, so we will be investing in our agent support but I’m not convinced that agent support will look exactly the same as how it did prior to Covid.

“Do I think we could be doing more of our training or our events or talking to agents using virtual means? Absolutely. But I don’t want us to go 100% of the way there.”

But he stressed: “There’s always going to be a role for personal relationships and meeting people and being with people. That’s part of the industry we’re in.”

Palethorpe acknowledged it had been a “really challenging time” for travel agents over the last 12 months and thanked them for their support.

“We’re extremely grateful for all of the support they’ve given us through this period, especially as itineraries have changed, and we’ve had to manage cancellations, and everything that that entails,” Palethorpe added.

“It’s been an extraordinary effort on the part of everybody in the industry to, in an unwavering way, look after our mutual guests. It’s been tremendous; a really enormous exercise and the way our agent partners have responded has been remarkable.”

And he outlined how Carnival UK had tried to support agents in return.

“We’ve been trying really hard to support agents as much as we possibly can,” said Palethorpe. “That’s involved keeping regular contact, running reward initiatives, for a while we’ve run increased agent commissions, and given away lots of extra Shine Rewards points.

“But my hope now is that as we start to get back to business, that the staycations that we’re about to launch will be just the very first step in giving agents some much needed revenue and support. In the end, we’re all in this together.”