Costa Cruises North America has launched a new Group Shore Excursion program that rewards travel agents with commission for groups of 20 or more guests. Effective immediately, the new program will pay varied commissions based on such factors as the number of participants, the specific shore trip and seasonality.
For example, on Mediterranean sailings, commissions will range from 8 percent for groups of 20 to 100 guests in high season to 15 percent on groups of 201 to 300 guests in the offseason. In the Caribbean, commissions range from 8 percent to 10 percent, depending on season and group size.
Earlier today Maurice Zarmati, president of Costa Cruises North America, told Travel Agent that he has participated in and watched many industry panel discussions with the trade over the years and always one of the top questions to arise is why lines don't pay agents commission on shore excursions that they must book for clients. Zarmati said that when he came to Costa, he dedicated himself to creating change in this area. "We've worked very hard [with the home office in Italy] to make it happen," he said.
From one agent's perspective, "this is a wonderful new opportunity for travel agents to increase our revenue in 2011," said Margie Jordan, CEO of ASAP Travel, Jacksonville, Fla.
Why does the new program apply to groups only?
"We have to start somewhere, and the process is lending itself to groups for now," Zarmati said. "Hopefully at some point, we might do it for individuals as well. But this is going to be the beta test.
"We want to make sure that we get the groups right, pay commission on time and make sure there are no rocks in the system, and then we'll seriously look at doing it for individuals as well," Zarmati said, noting, "because if we're going to do it for groups, why not make it for individuals?"
For now, though, the program is only valid for a group minimum of 20 paying guests on the same excursion. Groups of more than 100 guests globally or 50 in the Caribbean on the same excursion must be verified and confirmed for availability. To be valid for commission payment, excursions must be pre-booked and reserved prior to sailing; they're also nonrefundable, nontransferable and cannot be exchanged.
Group conditions are valid only for shore excursions published in Costa’s brochure and on its Web site. Commissions will be paid after the cruise, based on participation basis only.
For more information, visit www.costacruises.com.
Photo by Susan J. Young