The National Association of Career Travel Agents (NACTA) says independent travel agents have been pulling away from mainstream and mid-market cruise lines to escape low cruise fares and non-commissionable fees (NCFs) and, instead, selling all inclusive vacations, luxury and river cruises and flexible, independent travel (FIT) packages.
“Our research shows it has been a natural progression for our travel consultants to opt for the higher yielding sales of luxury and small ship cruises, tours and FIT packages replacing the lower yielding cruise sales,” NACTA President Ann van Leeuwen (pictured) told independent travel consultant members attending a conference of NACTA Chapter Directors at the Grand Rivera Sandal’s resort in Jamaica.
“NACTA itself is broadening our product portfolio beyond the contemporary cruise lines whose pricing practices return lower profits for our members,” she said. In particular, she adds, NACTA is developing more robust partnerships with luxury lines, all-inclusive resorts and FIT package providers that are tailoring their offerings to the desires of clients of NACTA’s member consultants.
Van Leeuwen points to its strong and growing partnerships with luxury, river and small ship cruise partners like Crystal Cruises, AMAWaterways, Paul Gauguin, and Alaskan Dream Cruises, which continue to invest in the independent travel consultant channel. NACTA’s exclusive and newest partnership with ITeXplorer will allow its members to build tailor-made multi-destination FIT packages for their clients in minutes.
“We are continuing to look for new partnerships that will increase client satisfaction, travel consultant productivity, sales and commissions,” she says.
The head of NACTA, representing independent consultants across Canada and the US, said member agents are telling her, “We will sell what’s best for our clients and what’s best for our business’ bottom line. Cruises lines and other suppliers who choose to reduce their commission expenses risk losing travel consultant loyalty. Cruise lines have choices and so do we. We will continue to build our relationships with suppliers who invest in our members and that is becoming increasingly so with the high-end vacation sector.”
More agents also are specializing so they can customize cruise and other travel for clients, van Leeuwen said.