Royal Caribbean Says New Group Tour Conductor Credit Policy Benefits Agents

For Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.'s brands, travel agents can benefit from a new tour conductor credit policy. It applies for groups sailing on or after January 1, 2018. Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas is shown here. // Photo copyright by Susan J Young.

Last week, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL), parent company of Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean International, announced that it would change its tour conductor credit calculation for travel agents’ group sales, making the policy more lucrative for agents.

The current policy determines tour conductor credits by using the cruise fare of the stateroom category where the group has booked the most space.

But, effective for all groups sailing on or after January 1, 2018, travel agents' tour conductor credits will be calculated by using the average cruise fare of the total stateroom categories booked within a group.

"Travel partners have been asking for this," emphasizes Juan Silva, Royal Caribbean's director, e-distribution strategy and development, sales.

He says the topic has surfaced repeatedly in individual travel partner meetings, travel advisory board meetings, training sessions and at new ship launches when partners are typically sailing.

The issue? "Travel partners try hard to upsell," Silva says, noting that the current policy doesn't credit them for their efforts to put at least some of the group guests in higher category accommodations. "Now that's changing."

Enhanced group reports are expected to be part of a major June update to the company's Espresso reservations system, which was introduced two years ago with many more capabilities than the previous CruiseMatch system.

"It continues to evolve," says Silva, noting that every two months or so there are new reservations system enhancements. The next big roll-out, which he calls Espresso 2.1, will be in June.

Silva also reports that Celebrity has already opened its global deployment for 2018-19 bookings, so many travel partners already have groups that will sail on or after January 1, 2018, when the new policy goes into effect.

Royal Caribbean will be similarly opening its deployment for 2018-2019 on March 8. Silva said it was important to assure partners understand that the tour conductor credit policy has changed.  

Theresa Scalzitti, vice president, sales and marketing, Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel representative, likes the change: “This is more rewarding for the agents who work hard to sell premium categories but may not have the majority of their group inventory in those categories.”

Scalzitti also says that “if a client uses future cruise credits or other credits to reduce their cruise fare, the agent is not penalized with significantly reduced tour conductor values.” 

Overall, “using the average cruise fare of the entire group is a much fairer approach and agents will be very excited about this change,” Scalzitti emphasizes.