Comparing the services of Internet Cruise Brokers to a Travel Professional is easy. Internet Cruise Brokers give little or no service while Travel Professionals do. For some travelers, no service is no problem. They’re happy to take a lower rate or some bonus amenity and take their chances on service issues. But a new rule by the world’s largest cruise line that puts a limit on how much Internet Cruise Brokers can do to make their offers attractive is going to change all that. It’s yet one more point in favor of travelers maintaining a life-long business relationship with a travel professional.
Called “value-add booking incentives” to the travel trade, they include free or discounted shore excursions, cash, gas cards, onboard credits, pre-paid gratuities, airline miles, third-party cash back offers, free or discounted travel protection coverage, free or discounted hotels nights, reduced airfare, gift cards and more.
Carnival Cruise Lines is limiting that amount and effective Aug. 1, value-add booking incentives can only be non-cash equivalent items valued at $25 per passenger or less according to a TravelPulse report. Carnival said the policy was tightened to ensure “that all travel partners have the equal ability to sell the Carnival product at the same great rate.”
Taking “skip the service, give me the lowest price” via Internet Cruise Brokers off the table leaves us with travel professionals who commonly add far more value in the long run through that “life-long business relationship” we speak of regularly here. Time and time again we get comments from readers who were lured in to an Internet Cruise Broker “deal” that could not be beat, only to find others onboard their sailing realized greater savings using a travel professional.
It all goes back to the shaky foundation that Internet Cruise Brokers have built their business: Selling a lot of cruises, as cheaply as possible. With little profit per sale, Internet Cruise Brokers have to sell a whole lot of cruises, leaving little time for service.
Sure, it is easy to click-to-buy a cruise. But unlike other travel options that are well-suited to Internet purchasing, cruise vacations have a number of variables, any one of which done wrong can ruin a vacation. That’s been the case for years though. What’s new and contributing to the demise of Internet Cruise Brokers is the cruise line onboard experience.
With a relatively new focus on differentiating themselves from others, cruise lines are making the buying decision even more difficult, but in a good way. Now, cruise lines are so different from one another that it is no longer just the date and itinerary that matter. Now, cruise lines offer such different and diverse onboard programming that travelers are seeking the advice of travel professionals more each day. Savvy travelers know that “price” is just one element in the buying decision and that no matter how low that price might be, its not low enough to make up for an onboard experience ill-suited to them.
That’s where your travel professional can make a difference, now and down the road.