ACTA’s President & COO Dave McCaig credits his organization’s publication of agent complaints and a deluge of examples about non-commissionable fees (NCFs) being declared by ocean cruise lines, with opening new dialogue between suppliers and travel agencies across Canada. It’s a dialogue, says ACTA’s President that could lead to a ‘great new partnership’ between suppliers and agencies.
McCaig says agency heads are telling him discussions are taking place between various suppliers and agencies now that the frustrations of travel agencies over the issue of NCFs are being publicized across the industry. “A series of articles in ACTAVision with specific examples of NCFs and other problems with agency remuneration by suppliers has opened the windows and let some sunshine in,” he said. “Some people on both sides have begun talking about creating real partnerships.”
Dozens of travel agencies across Canada responded to ACTA’s call for experiences with NCFs related to cruise sales. All were critical of ocean cruise lines but several were highly complimentary of river cruise lines.
Mr. McCaig said the talks between suppliers and agencies range over the whole distribution model but said the major issue is clear; major cruise lines and some other suppliers, do not understand or appreciate the value proposition of travel agencies. “Suppliers and particularly the cruise lines don’t get the point that travel agencies can be ideal, high value partners,” said the ACTA head.
McCaig is now calling on ACTA travel agency members to develop better information and better promotion to engage and convince suppliers that travel agents sell and upsell more travel product to consumers and serve customers better than any other means of sale.
“Cruise lines and others are talking with agencies discussing topics they haven’t covered before,” says McCaig. “Now that we have their attention, we need a persuasive message to prove to these companies they should be ditching NCFs and paying fairer commissions because we are exceptionally good at selling their cruises and tours.”
Mr. McCaig said there is an onus on travel agencies to prove their outstanding worth to suppliers and to enhance their business models. “Suppliers are facing financial hard times and are looking for ways to cut costs in any way possible. They should be looking at travel agents as partners who can make them more money instead of cost centres that have to be attacked.”
As well, McCaig says agencies can develop ways to save the suppliers money that can then go to commissions. “The solution to our differences is in acting like partners instead of adversaries,” says McCaig.
McCaig says suppliers do not believe that agents own or can control what consumers buy. “In fact, ACTA agencies have extraordinary contact with consumers and influence consumers more than any other marketing. Travel consumers today look for more than dirt-cheap excursions; they want complex, exciting, fascinating experiences for all ages and income levels and only travel agents can properly sell and manage this level of travel. We do own our customers and suppliers have to be told and shown that we do. For our part, agencies can start working with suppliers to deliver the best, most cost-effective travel values possible. For the suppliers’ part, they can eliminate NCFs, stop dumping all the work on the backs of agencies without paying them for extra work and recognize the great value of agents. The result will be a net win for the agency and the supplier as well as, ultimately, the consumer.”