Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. is making it known that it doesn't intend to let travel agents dangle in the wind during this difficult economic time. On the heels of ending its brand-wide fuel supplement, the cruise company has introduced ASAP, or Agent Support Action Program, across all its three brands—Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara—to try and mitigate agent hardship.
“This economic environment is unprecedented, and our travel agent partners need our unprecedented support,” said Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales for Royal Caribbean International as the ASAP program was announced. “Like everyone, they are feeling the pain, and we need to help them through this.”
How they will do that is through a slew of new initiatives designed to ensure that agents emerge from the recession as unscathed as possible. Besides educational tools already in place, ASAP will incorporate a series of incentives for North American agents during this upcoming Wave Season (January 1 through February 28, 2009) including: a 1 percent commission supplement on any cruise bookings for sailings from January 2009 through March 2010; increased coop funding for qualifying agencies undertaking significant marketing plans; a reduction in Tour Conductor credits, from 1-for-16 to 1-for-10; a 50 percent reduction in deposits for all FIT bookings; and an individual agent booking incentive through which agents can earn a complimentary cruise. The three brands will also maintain their ongoing consumer marketing efforts to drive more business to agents.
Agencies are already beginning to applaud Royal Caribbean's efforts. “Travel agents are facing unique challenges in today’s economic environment,” said Steve Tracas, Vacation.com’s president and CEO. “RCCL’s leadership role in recognizing and addressing these challenges is certainly a step in the right direction. This plan clearly shows their concern and support for the channel that distributes almost 80 percent of their product. These actions are very much appreciated by the membership at Vacation.com. As 2009 unfolds, we’ll see if others within the industry follow suit.”
Vacation.com also applauds RCCL’s ongoing consumer marketing efforts to drive more business to agents by focusing on agents and not direct selling.
“RCCL is navigating the same challenging economy as all other cruise lines, but they understand the importance of a healthy and vibrant distribution channel over the long-term,” added Tracas. “This program, along with their termination of fuel surcharges and support of affiliated agencies, solidifies their position with travel agents while recognizing the obstacles of the current economy. It is in the best interest of the agency community to take advantage of this new program.”