By Natasha Salmon and Juliet Dennis
Agents fear a return to “the bad old days” of heavy discounting in cruise and have called on operators to stop their products being devalued.
Bailey’s Travel managing director Chris Bailey was forced to match a customer’s Thomas Cook quote for a P&O Cruises booking that listed a 3% discount, a £50 excursion voucher, plus Cook’s 10% commission.
“I kept this sale by matching it, but if this happens a lot we won’t do the booking,” he said.
“It puts us back in the bad old days of discounting, which is a very lazy way of doing business.”
P&O Cruises parent Carnival UK cut commissions to 5% in 2011 in a bid to stem discounting, but rates have risen since, with the base rate currently at 7.5%.
Alex White, sales vice-president for P&O and Cunard, said: “If agents would like to contact our sales team, then we can discuss promotional opportunities together”. Thomas Cook declined to comment.
Oasis Travel managing director Sandra Corkin also questioned whether relatively small discounts and incentives were necessary after losing a booking to an online rival this week, which was offering £60 onboard credit.
“There is heavy competition in the cruise market, but getting ahead by using discounting on what is already a very good value-for-money product is not the way to do it. Cruise companies should not allow companies to devalue their products,” she said.
Miles Morgan, managing director of Miles Morgan Travel, said: “It was P&O Cruises and Cunard that blamed discounting as the reason for cutting commission [to 5%]. If they are giving Thomas Cook commission of 10% then they are the ones driving discounts back into the market.”
Adore Cruises managing director Ian Gilder said a growth in cruise capacity exacerbated the problem.
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