Agents Sound Off on Disney's NCF and Commission Changes

Disney terminal and ship at Port Canaveral, FL // Photo by Susan J. Young
Disney terminal and ship at Port Canaveral, FL // Photo by Susan J. Young

Monday, Disney Cruise Line raised NCFs (non-commissionable fares) on cruises of up to 10 days, and also eliminated commissions for air or non-Disney properties booked via Adventures by Disney.

Previously, Disney charged a flat $20 per person daily as an NCF. While that will continue for voyages of 11 days or more, if clients sail for fewer days they'll pay more in the NCF -- $30 per person for voyages of seven to 10 days and $25 for voyages of six days or less.

Travel trade executives were, not surprisingly, disappointed and even a bit perplexed. “Our fundamental principal is that the leisure travel industry needs a healthy distribution system,” said Debbie Fiorino, senior vice president, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc., part of World Travel Holdings.

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Fiorino said “foundational to this is the ability for professional travel counselors to make money. We are a cruise-centric organization and we have been challenged by the decreasing margin for us and our valued professionals as NCFs have grown at a significantly greater rate than the [cruise] selling price.”

Travel Agent's Facebook page (www.facebook.com/travelagentmagazine) was brimming with feedback from agents -- most upset by the changes.

RELATED: Disney Cruise Line Raises NCFs; Adventures by Disney Modifies Commission Policy

Disney Wonder docked at Castaway Cay in the Bahamas // Photo by Susan J. Young
Disney Wonder docked at Castaway Cay in the Bahamas // Photo by Susan J. Young

Lisa Ringler, a leisure travel consultant in Birmingham, MI, says: “Way to ‘dis’ your travel agent. Time for me to stop selling their product.” Others vented: “Disney is slowly working its way away from working with travel agents;” “Don’t like it;” “Greedy;” or “I won’t be pushing them much anymore."

B&B Travel Agency in Virginia Beach, VA, posted this response: “When I first got in the business, cruises were over 50% of my bookings. It has gotten harder and harder to support cruise lines when they only ‘talk’ support for agents but continue to limit our ability to take home a good paycheck.”

Kristi Putman, a luxury cruise concierge at World Travel Holdings, pointed to another line that made changes awhile back, and has been working hard to win back agents: “Carnival tried this...once."

Gary Ei, a consultant at Accent on Travel, Towson, MD, said: “I've always tried to avoid Disney - too much trouble booking their products, too much knowledge to retain for very little compensation for selling their product. Let agents that give the clients part of their commissions have this business.”

Luann Gentry McDonal, a vacation specialist at CruiseOne, also focused on the rebating issue: “I guess "those agencies" that give away hundreds of dollars of Disney commission will have to stop the practice of undercutting other agents. Ruined it for all of us. Clients will pay for Disney regardless.”

She said now everyone will get less, except Disney and the agents who’ve undercut by giving away commission will have to develop a new business plan that doesn't involve “buying” clients.

Disney staffer leads guests through the Vancouver International Airport en route to motorcoaches bound for the cruise pier. // Photo by Susan J. Young
Disney staffer leads guests through the Vancouver International Airport en route to motorcoaches bound for the cruise pier. // Photo by Susan J. Young

But others were pragmatic about the changes. “It's a free market,” said Tony Maly of Fort Ross Travel, based in California. “I don't like raising NCFs, of course, but truly, Disney cruises are unique, well-positioned, don't have competitors and don't need us. That’s the truth. They have no problems selling it. Yes, it's ridiculously expensive, but people are willing to pay.”

He says agents who demand something from Disney won't do any good for the agency community. “What we can and should do is find the way to provide more or better service to Disney fans, something that Disney doesn't or won't do,” Maly wrote. He suggested finding new marketing niches and asked if others had ideas to share.

Travel Agent asked Disney Cruise Line if it would like to offer any additional insight or comments since the announcement came to light yesterday. Thus far, we haven't received any response from the cruise line, but will update this story if we do.

Candice Treffer, an independent travel concierge with Mousetracks.com, specializes in selling Disney products and said: “It is what it is. Do I like it? No, of course not. Can I do anything about it? Nope!”

Treffer says she’ll simply continue to provide top-notch service with as much magic as she can for her clients: “They are who I'm working for, and they deserve the very best.”

What's your perspective on the changes? Let us know on our Facebook page

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