The Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA) has asked Carnival Corp. to reconsider its policies on non-commissionable fares (NCFs) – including by paying agent commissions, at current levels, on full cruise fares.
The issue of NCFs is a major reason that Carnival brands “have fallen out of favor” with agents, ACTA said in a letter to Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold W. Donald. NCFs “create mistrust” between the cruise line, consumers and travel agents, wrote ACTA president and COO David McCaig.
McCaig also asked Carnival to establish “familiar and consistent terminology.” He noted that agents are challenged to explain NCFs to clients, often using alternate terms such as “supplemental fares,” “non-disclosed cruise fees,” and “hidden surcharges.”
McCaig complained that “When a travel agent seeks support from Carnival Cruise Lines' reservations to quantify NCFs, they are always at a loss to do so.”
Carnival Corp. said it would look into the NCF issue.
“We certainly understand and appreciate the issues being raised and I know Arnold plans to look into this further and give this issue a thorough review with his leadership team,” said spokesperson Roger Frizzell.
“Travel agents are absolutely critical to our long-term success, and we are doing a number of positive things across our 10 brands to continue to strengthen our ties with our agency partners around the world,” Frizzell said.
ACTA emailed its members on Thursday advising them of McCaig’s Oct. 23 letter to Donald, who was appointed CEO of Carnival Corp. in June.
“The timing to reopen the conversation is a direct result of the new CEO's claim that Carnival Corporation is committed to repair a frayed relationship with travel agents. The hope is that under Mr. Donald's leadership, ACTA's voice will not fall on deaf ears,” McCaig told members.
McCaig’s letter to Donald included sharp wording. "Although we sympathize with Carnival's recent string of unfortunate disasters, we find it difficult to support their commitment to repair the relationship with travel agencies.
“Traditionally, relationships built on consensual trust and collaborative success would see ACTA members quickly jump to the support of a loyal trade partner. To date Carnival's reputation with ACTA members has caused the opposite effect.”
Non-commissionable fares, which lump together taxes and cruise line fees, have been a tough sticking point in cruise-agent relations in recent years.
With cruise prices soft, NCFs have climbed as a percentage of the total selling price. Last year, they accounted for an average 29% of the total cruise fare, according to data compiled by World Travel Holdings on Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Celebrity, Princess and Regent Seven Seas.
One executive from a cruise-selling agency group said this fall that lately cruise lines have been adding on miscellaneous fees. The additional fees are further cutting into agency commissions, the executive said.