'It's a really big announcement that all the World's Leading Cruise Lines brands in North America will do the same with commission rates,' Carnival Cruise Line's Adolfo Perez, SVP global sales and trade marketing, told Seatrade Cruise News. This includes Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Cunard, Costa and Seabourn.
Given the pause in operations, it's likely many agencies would not meet the sales requirements for their commission tier so this will be a boost for the distribution channel.
1% bonus pay for online bookings
In addition, Carnival Cruise Line will pay a bonus 1% commission for bookings made via GoCCL.com or other online booking tools through June 30.
The bonus pay for online bookings and holding the commission level were announced today as enhancements to Carnival Cruise Line's 'Onboard with You' pledge as a way of helping sustain travel advisors during this unprecedented suspension of operations.
Pay for canceled cruises and FCC bookings
As well, the Carnival brand continues to protect commission for canceled cruises, and to pay commission for bookings made with future cruise credits, which it became the first line to do several years ago. This means agents get paid for their original booking and for working to rebook clients using their FCCs.
'We want our travel partners to know how much we value and appreciate them and that they are not in this alone,' Perez said. 'This is another way for us to show our support for them.'
Video message from Carnival brass
Carnival's call centers have been 'extremely busy' and many advisors are experiencing long hold times. This is the only department approved for overtime, and work there continues 24/7, Perez said. Giving advisors the 1% incentive for online bookings — including those using FCCs — is intended to help take pressure off the call centers.
Bookings still coming in for 2020
'We're still getting bookings for 2020, not only FCC re-bookings,' he added. 'We definitely have bookings coming in for 2020, 2021 and 2022. People are eager to get back on a cruise.'
The bulk of those bookings are likely from loyal customers — 'people who understand the value and the fact that cruising is safe,' Perez acknowledged. He could not say which particular types of itineraries are drawing the most interest now.
During a media briefing last Thursday, Carnival Corp. & plc CEO Arnold Donald said nobody knows when cruises will restart anywhere.
But Perez indicated Carnival still hopes it will be possible to sail in a few months.
'Right now, we plan to start sailing by the end of June. We are working closely with the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and other agencies to ensure it's safe to do that. We just keep working toward that date.'
Asked if there's a discernible impact from recent negative cruise stories in major media that lump together Costa Concordia, pollution and technical problems with the current COVID-19 woes, Perez wouldn't speculate.
'We've worked hard to make sure things that happened in the past don't happen in the future. All we can do is try to continue to improve, to operate safely for our guests, crew and the places where we operate,' he said.
Perez voiced his confidence that Carnival 'will come back to service stronger than ever.'
Meanwhile, he expressed 'how thankful we are for how the trade has supported us during this time. We talk about travel agents as our partners. That's true now more than ever.'