With Thanksgiving only a few days away, I’m hoping I have extra room around the table this year because I’d like to invite some cruise industry executives over. We could eat and drink, and talk about some of the things we’re all thankful for. I just wonder how many of them would put travel agents on their list? Given that agents not only sell nearly 80 percent of all cruises, but they also bring in more per booking, you would think the lines would be thankful to have such great partners.
Enter Non-Commissionable Fees (NCF): items that increase the total value of the sale, but are not factored into an agent’s commission.
These NCF have become a hot topic. At a recent event, Brad Anderson, co-president of America’s Vacation Center, suggested cruise lines should put the fees on "holiday" for the rest of the year in order to better motivate agents during these tough times.
Similarly, Roger Block, president of the Travel Franchise Group, parent company of Cruise Holidays, recently suggested that the cruise lines were "going to kill the golden goose" with their NCF policies.
"Every year, a higher percentage of the cruise price becomes non-commissionable. Selling all-inclusives is more profitable than selling cruises," he said.
Finally, Steve Tracas, president and CEO of Vacation.com, delivered a passionate speech on the subject at a conference in Miami. Calling NCF the "elephant in the room," he blamed these policies for causing a rift between cruise lines and agents at a time when this partnership is crucial to both parties.
"We collectively should strengthen the distribution channel that is considered the most reliable, trusted and knowledgeable by the consumer," Tracas said. "Non-commissionable items are just the most visible and tangible evidence of the erosion of the partnership that will ultimately put the entire distribution channel at risk."
So as you read this issue’s cover story, "Cruising Asia", here’s hoping that this holiday season the cruise lines decide to show their gratitude to their industry partners and give NCF the vacation they so richly deserve.