Travel Agents Optimistic About Impact of Marriott Commission Cut

by Cheryl Rosen
Travel Agents Optimistic About Impact of Marriott Commission Cut

Photo: ElRoi/Shutterstock

Many travel professionals took Marriott’s recent cut in travel agent commissions as a personal affront — but it’s not a business problem, they say. It’s not really going to affect their bottom lines.

“No effect here. Marriott was never a go-to, and it still isn't,” said David Holman of Bridges and Holman Worldwide Travel in Hesperia, California.

“It’s not hurting my business in the least,” said Ann Erwin. “I don’t use them often.”

“There’s nothing unique about Marriott properties; I never booked clients there anyway,” said Beth Schulberg at Cruise & Travel Specialists outside of Portland, Oregon.

“I don’t see it hurting my business at all. If clients don’t request Marriott, I won’t be recommending it. Very often, if a client prefers Marriott, they’re going to book it with points anyway,” said Raye Bowling Hayden at Triple R Travel in Tampa, Fla..

Some agents said it will hurt but they are taking it in stride.

“Marriott is a big player in the hotel field, so yes, it will hurt my business. Any time a supplier cuts commissions to a travel professional it hurts their business. They are asking travel pros to take good care of the mutual customer but with reduced reward for the work,” said Judy Fiorello at Sail and Sand Travel in Williamsburg, Virginia. “Supplier support is very important to me. If I don't have that for myself and my clients, then I look to those who do support the client and the industry, not just their own interests. It has to be a true B2B partnership or it's simply a taking of what you can get.”

"It’s not going to have a huge effect on our business, as we only sold Marriott on Hawaii,” said Sharon Millar at Ultimate All-Inclusive Travel Inc. in Gilbert, Arizona. “When the airlines cut commissions, the agencies that survived were the ones that figured out how to change their business, and the ones that went out of business were consumed by it and spent their time trying to fight it. Yes, the hotels and resorts are all business and their job is to put heads in beds and generate the most profit possible while providing service to the client. Come to think about it, that should be the goal of any business. Our business is changing and we need to focus on changing our businesses to meet the new challenges that are presented.”

“I don't anticipate any financial impact, because there are usually lots of friendlier options to choose from. With this type of attitude, I think Marriott just made it easier for us to book the competition,” says Margie Lenau at Wonderland Family Vacations in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “Marriott will not be my first choice, unless it serves the client. I want to know that if something goes wrong, or my client has a complaint, that I can count on the supplier to help us. Marriott brand is not displaying an attitude of service with this move.”

Indeed, Carol Mole McKee at McKee Travel in Rush, New York, said she already has seen a little give-and-take from the world’s largest hotel company. “I had a convo with my BDM last week and I have heard that they are making exceptions and that agents that bring them large groups could stay at 10 percent. Today, she said groups booked before Mar. 31 will still receive the 10 percent commission.”

Marriott is reducing commissions due to costs for North American hotels growing at a faster pace than group revenue. "At Marriott International, meetings and events represent a critical part of our business as well as an opportunity to drive innovation and win with customers. The current business model and environment, however, present significant obstacles to making the investments needed to deliver a world-class experience for customers," a Marriott spokesperson said. 

And Robert Merlin, at SmartFlyer, said his contacts at Marriott went even further. “They assured me that, as of now, there is no plan to cut travel agent commission on individual bookings. The cuts affect groups and have to do with agents passing on commissions to clients. So, the cuts will not affect me or the hotels I recommend.”

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