Carnival moving to improve ties with agents but will it address NCFs?

Carnival moving to improve ties with agents but will it address NCFsMIAMI — Carnival Cruise Lines says it is listening to travel agents more than ever through its Carnival Conversations roadshow and has made a number of changes ranging from bringing back printed brochures, simplified pricing, a Vacation Guarantee program, bonus points for agents and making it easier for agents to cruise.

But there is another topic the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA) wants Carnival to address: Non-Commissionable Fees or NCFs.

In a letter to Carnival Corporation CEO, Arnold W. Donald, ACTA’s David McCaig, President and COO, said he wanted to “share our frustration with Carnival’s NCF commission policy and our willingness to work on a mutually acceptable solution”.

He said the timing is a direct result of the new CEO’s claim that Carnival Corporation is committed to repair a frayed relationship with travel agents. “The hope is that under Mr. Donald’s leadership, ACTA’s voice will not fall on deaf ears”.

McCaig added that ACTA engaged Carnival Corporation and other cruise lines on this topic in 2010. “At that time, ACTA spoke ardently against the flippant comments made by cruise lines management and the growing trend to move more items out of the base fare and into the ‘tax’ line.

“Unfortunately Carnival brands have fallen out of favour with ACTA members for a variety of reasons but the most concerning is the issue surrounding NCFs and the mistrust it creates between the consumer, the cruise line and our members.”

Traditionally a Travel Agent will present NCF’s to a client as “Supplemental Fares”, “Non-Disclosed Cruise Fees”, “Add-On Fares” or “Hidden Surcharges” and as the clients most trusted resource, Travel Agents are required to explain what they mean.

The letter goes on to ask Donald to seriously consider changing Carnival brands’ NCF commission policy by establishing familiar and consistent terminology for the travel agency community to use with their clients as well as commissioning the cruise with both amounts combined (commissionable and non-commissionable) at current levels.

McCaig stated, “Although we sympathize with Carnival’s recent string of unfortunate disasters, we find it difficult to support their commitment to repair the relationship with travel agencies. Traditionally, relationships built on consensual trust and collaborative success would see ACTA members quickly jump to the support of a loyal trade partner. To date Carnival’s reputation with ACTA members has caused the opposite effect”.

A Carnival spokesman said that “travel agents are absolutely critical to our long-term success, and we are doing a number of positive things across our 10 brands to continue to strengthen our ties with our agency partners around the world. We certainly understand and appreciate the issues being raised, and I know Arnold plans to look into this further and give this issue a thorough review with his leadership team.”