Charlie Funk
Charlie Funk

In my April 27 column, "Survival of the fittest," I opined that about 30% of all brick-and-mortar locations would disappear in 24 months. Many said I was totally wrong.

They were right. But now I fear it won't take 24 months. Reports of agencies closing or moving to home-based come to me daily. 

I salute suppliers who have committed to pay commissions on canceled cruises. We just need to find a way to speed up payment so that commissions are not bundled with other refunds.

In 2002, Phillip Kleweno, then president of P&O Princess, was asked to explain his cruise line's resilience following 9/11. He said, "We found the intersection of greed and fear."

Indeed, every cruise industry disturbance in the past 35 years has always had a price point at which someone would say, "I'm willing to take a chance; the price is too good to stay home."

However, a survey and focus groups our agency did suggest this time is different. There is no price low enough to risk infection if booking a new cruise. There is no intersection of greed and fear.

At least, not for booking a new cruise. However, several cruise lines offered substantial incentives to clients who would accept a future cruise credit (FCC) of the amount paid plus a 25% bonus for rebooking.

That isn't the traditional fear/greed intersection used to grow new bookings. Rather, it is an inducement to leave money on deposit.

It was a genius stroke. But for reasons that are known only to the cruise lines, the FCC was made redeemable by any retailer, and that created a new intersection: desperation and greed.

One agency group, one long noted for aggressive marketing, pricing and rebates to cruise passengers who apparently don't see the value that a travel professional brings to the table, has begun to blatantly solicit those who had FCCs to book with them instead of the original agency, dangling an Amazon gift card as a form of rebate.

Another mega-agency needed to furlough 80% of its sales agents but never resorted to such shabby tactics.

And just when you thought the world's supply of chutzpah had been fully consumed, airline executives said that travel agencies will be key when travel ramps up again ("Airlines say travel agencies key to return to the skies").

I urge you to read it, then ask, "When you say that 'partnerships with travel agencies will be key when travel ramps up again' and that 'We've invested a lot of energy into these partnerships,' exactly to whom do you refer? It must be the mega-agencies to which you've been paying commissions all along. It cannot possibly be the thousands of agencies you threw to the wolves in 1995. You didn't need us then. We don't need you now. We don't work for free anymore.'"

It's like this: Work the plan. Maybe you survive, maybe you don't. But do it with integrity and refuse to work for nothing.


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