The Association of Retail Travel Agents has called on Carnival Cruise Lines to keep the option of paper documents when those are preferred by clients or agents. ARTA said it would be glad to help facilitate discussion between Carnival and travel agents on the issue. Carnival has provided an option to receive paper documents for the last two years, but has announced that, as of August 3, 2009, it will provide only electronic documents.
"There has been a roar of displeasure from the travel agent community at Carnival's announcement of electronic documents only," noted ARTA chairman Lynn Hayes.
"Instead of adding 'efficiency' by not providing paper vouchers, bag tags, itineraries and more, Carnival is simply moving to using an inferior presentation of documents while shifting the cost of printing those to the customer or the travel agent. This is in no way more efficient— nor is it 'green'," ARTA representatives said in a statement. "The materials that suppliers have long provided clients are smaller and more concise than anything individuals or agents can provide. Suppliers have the capacity to print on two sides of a page, for example, whereas individuals or agents can only print on 8-1/2 by 11 inch paper, creating a huge stack of paper that begins to curl is clumsy to carry and easily torn."
Hayes added that efficiency isn't the only consideration travel agents have when serving clients, and it should be all that suppliers think about, either. "Customer service is foremost, and most agents find that clients overwhelmingly want and expect paper documents," Hayes said. "Being able to provide professional-looking documents from a supplier is important to travel agents -- and printing out pages from a computer will never suffice for most clientele."
Hayes also noted that while neither clients nor agents want to have to print out reams of cruise documents, clients must be provided the information in order to protect themselves, the agent or agency, and the cruise line. An agent or supplier would have no idea if a client at home printed out all pertinent parts of cruise documents or even saw them.