Two Carnival bosses have reaffirmed their commitment to agents and rejected claims that moves to make distribution more efficient were an attempt to cut out the trade completely.
Speaking exclusively to Travel Weekly last week, Carnival Corporation chairman Micky Arison and new chief executive Arnold Donald (pictured) said inefficiencies in the system in the UK and the US had to be addressed.
Changes made to agent terms, automation and commission in both countries have angered some agents and Carnival has already initiated a charm offensive on both sides of the Atlantic.
In the UK, potential earning levels have crept back up and an Agent Matters initiative has been started.
Arison said: “Our goal was never to cut agents out or to not work with them, but to make this system more efficient so we can all make more money.
“As an operator, if you get a booking on your website, it’s efficient, but that’s a very small piece of the business. If a customer goes to an agent who has an efficient system, that’s as efficient as them calling our call centre. The worst situation is when an agent calls us because then you have two ‘call centres’ talking to each other.
“We were trying to get to a situation where the customer calls our call centre or an agent. In the UK it was also an attempt to control our pricing.”
Donald said the agent community was one of the key stakeholders he has engaged with since taking the role from Arison on July 3. "Travel agents have always been valued," he said.
"You are always trying to tweak what you are doing to motivate and incentivise the behaviour you want so you can effectively manage costs so the money you are spending has an impact.
"There were some measures taken that aggravated [agents] and did not have the desired results but there was never a feeling that travel agents did not count or were not important."
Carnival UK chief executive David Dingle said the commission changes in the UK were driven by travel agents themselves. "There were a number of long-standing partners who kept saying to us can't you do something to stop us cutting each other's throats by this competitive rebating.
"It led to this massively inappropriate behaviour of customers shopping around and agents finding it impossible to close the sale. Some agents were cutting away so much they had nothing to sustain themselves and we lost control of pricing as a result."