Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Does Your Travel Agent Provide You With The Cruise or Vacation You Desire...Or The One It Gets The Most Profits From?

Yesterday I read an article in Travel Market Report discussing how many travel agencies that sell premium and contemporary cruises (Oceania, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Princess, etc.) have significantly reduced the number of cruises they sell and are pushing their clients toward land-based vacations.  The primary reason:  Commissions.

As the article expressly states, “It’s About The Money”.  I have to wonder, “Why it is not about your desires and the vacation you really want?” 

But more on that in a minute.

Some travel agents have given their names and direct quotes. Along the lines of Paul Motter, of CruiseMates.com, who called those that go on luxury lines like Seabourn as being primarly focused on “gluttony”, I think you should know what these travel agents are saying (and these are direct quotes from the article):

- Jocelyn Gardner, an agent at Gateway Travel and Cruises, a Vacation.com agency. “It’s because of the commissions.”

- Peter Ulbrich, co-owner and vice president of Holiday Cruise and Travel in Cincinnati, also points to shrinking cruise earnings to explain why his agency, a former Cruise Holidays franchise, now does only 20% of its business in cruises – down from 75% to 80%....“If you’ve got somebody on a 12-day Mediterranean cruise and they want to book eight or nine shore excursions, that takes hours. You could be booking several thousand dollars in shore excursions. You spend all that time, and you get nothing,” Ulbrich commented.

Lawton Roberts, CEO of Country Place Travel, Inc., a storefront agency in Lawrenceville, Ga.…steers cruise-inclined clients toward land vacations that yield higher earnings.

Isn’t this exactly what you are concerned about as a customer?  You go to a travel agency to purchase the vacation of your desires and dreams; not the one with the highest profit margin for the travel agent.  It is like going to a store to buy one thing, coming out with another possibly more expensive thing and then later saying, “You know, that really isn’t what I wanted and a spent a bit too much, but I guess it’ll be fine.”

To me that is just, plain and simple:  Dishonest and Wrong.

I know that I have a reputation for being “Everything Seabourn”, but I actually am far more than that.  I have never sold a Seabourn cruise to anyone that did not specifically ask for a Seabourn cruise or whom I did not believe a Seabourn cruise was the best option for them. 

You may not know this (frequent readers do), but I am also very keen on Orion Expeditions and Crystal Cruises on the more luxury side of things.  I do like much about Silversea, but I just need it to be more consistent.  The Silver Explorer (ex. Prince Albert II) is, however, a unique product that cannot be overlooked.  Azamara Club Cruises and Oceania Cruises on the premium side of things are good options, but I continually hold Celebrity Cruises out as “the best bang for the buck in the business”.

River cruises are something that I am starting to get a good feel for and, to be sure, the demand for them is on the rise.  I am presently developing an AmaWaterways group cruise I intend on hosting on April 8, 2012 “Vineyards of the Rhine & Mosel”.

In the last two days, I have been working on an Abercrombie & Kent tour, a couple of river cruises, a multi-generational Celebrity cruise, another Celebrity group cruise, an Azamara Club cruise and, of course, a few Seabourn cruises.  Bet you never would have guessed that!

That multi-generational cruise family presents a typical scenario for me.  Initially they insisted that they wanted to go on Royal Caribbean…I mean really insisted…but by the time I worked through everything with them, they knew (with all the information I gave them) that I was absolutely correct.  I did this by spending as much time as necessary…and then some.  If I sell every cruise based upon what I earn per hour on that cruise, rather than looking “big picture” I believe I will be out of business in no time.  In fact, my clients are treated identically whether they are booking a Celebrity or Seabourn cruise.  My clients are entitled to that! 

(BTW, I figure a few readers want to know this:  Whether I sold them Royal Caribbean or Celebrity it made virtually no difference to my commission…it is just the right product for that family; but I could have done it the easy, shorter, way and sold them the wrong product…quickly.)

If my business model was to push you into a cruise or land vacation that really didn’t want or really didn’t fit your needs and desires properly, I probably would get you to book that one cruise or land vacation with me…and then I would never see you again.  I want to book your vacations for the rest of your life, so why the heck would that concept ever enter my mind?!

So as you hear so often now of Travel Agency ABC going out of business or Travel Agent John or Jane complaining about how they can’t make the same kind of money that they did years ago and blame the cruise lines (who are not innocent in their tactics), I suggest you run – not walk – away from them.  They are not looking out for your best interests.  They are simply using you to achieve theirs.  Sad and shortsighted, but true.

Goldring Travel’s motto and business plan is simple:  Be Treated By Your Travel Agent As You Will Be Onboard.  That is achieved by assuring the customer (you) have your desires and dreams exceeded; not pushed in a direction that in the short term lines my pockets.

In other words, I want your vacation planning to be an easy and enjoyable experience and I am focused on repeat business and referrals. 

If you are interested in a cruise or land vacation email me at eric@goldringtravel.com  or call me call me at (888) SEABOURN or (877) 2GO-LUXURY in the U.S.; 020 8133 3450 in the U.K.; 07 3102 4685 in Australia; and +1 732-383-7398 elsewhere.