Carnival Corporation boss Arnold Donald has admitted the way the company cut commission in the UK in 2011 was executed poorly.
But he suggested agents put customer service above earning potential when booking first-time cruisers.
Speaking to Travel Weekly during the inaugural celebrations of P&O Cruises’ Britannia, Donald said the remuneration cuts to 5% were an “honest attempt” to respond to discounting but he conceded the lines, which include P&O Cruises and Cunard, hadn’t got it right.
He said the commission cuts were an attempt to help the trade eradicate discounting but the move had backfired.
Now, he added, he was keen to build ties for the future to ensure the success of agents’ businesses and that of the Carnival Corporation brands.
“There was an honest attempt to do something but it wasn’t executed in the right way,” he said.
“We didn’t get it right but it was actually us trying to work more closely with travel professionals that led to [the cuts] in the first place.
“We now want to get it right. Travel professionals have always been critical to our business and they will remain critical to our future.
“We need them to be successful.”
Donald said commission would always be important but he believes it should be an agent’s secondary consideration when booking customers new to cruising.
He said it was “a mistake” for agents to be “all about commission with a first-time cruiser” when the attention should be on the service delivered, ensuring they get the client on the right ship, and on the experience the customer has from the moment they book.
“I’m not saying agents shouldn’t make a commission,” he said. “I’m saying they first need to get it right. If the customer comes back, they will make commission for many years to come.”
P&O Cruises hosted more than 3,000 agents during its Britannia inaugural celebrations, which culminated in the Queen naming the ship.
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