Operator affiliate discounts blasted by independent agents

Operator affiliate discounts blasted by independent agents

Independent agents have hit out at operators that target their customers by offering hefty discounts to members of affiliate schemes.

Neilson offers a 12% discount to members of the Ski Club of Great Britain (SCGB) and Royal Yachting Association, while Mark Warner, Club Med and a dozen other operators offer 10% reductions to SCGB members.

Agents say their expertise is being exploited and discounting operators are harming their repeat business.

Niall Douglas, managing director of Full Circle Travel, said: “People are talking in resort, then they come back to us asking for a discount. To keep the client, we have to match it. But we would make a loss on a full discount.”

Douglas said membership discount levels were “too high”, adding: “It makes us reluctant to direct customers to these operators. At 5%, we could at least match and still make some token money. The impact on trade would be minimal.”

He added that the same operators “actively discourage” agents from discounting.
Colin Matthews, managing director of Travel Club Elite, said his agency had lost “substantial” bookings as a result of affiliate schemes.

“We can’t compete with that price, so we have to thank customers for their enquiry and send them on their way,” he said.

But Karen Allen, travel agency manager at Aspen Travel, said direct discounts had little impact. “In 30 years, I’ve had one or two cases of people saying they can get a better deal through membership,” she said. “There’s nothing you can do about that.”

Mark Warner said the discounts were available only to Ski Club members booking direct, and that the operator offered “various exclusives and incentives” to agents.

Club Med said it was considering dropping the scheme. A spokeswoman said the deal was “hardly used”, compared with its 15% early-bird offer and last‑minute deals – both of which are available to agents.

Activity specialist Neilson declined to comment.

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