Royal Caribbean Cruises has terminated its
relationship with YTB Travel Network, a host agency and multilevel
marketing business in Wood River, Ill., effective Nov. 9, according
to Kim Sorensen, the network's CEO.
said, YTB seeks to meet with the cruise company's top management in
hopes of winning reinstatement. He said, "It is our position that
[the line's] senior management hasn't taken enough of a look at our
business, and we want the opportunity to show them that."
The cruise company,
which operates Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and
Azamara Cruises, said in a letter to agents this week that it had
begun terminating its business relationships with certain
travel-related companies that it had concluded were "in the
card-mill business" (selling ordinary consumers access to benefits
designed for travel agents).
Sorensen said that
YTB was a "networking company, but we also put major emphasis on
the travel side. ...We want to legitimize the concept with our
production." On the other hand, he said, YTB makes no pretense of
competing with "high-touch, high-service" travel agents; it is
after the consumer who is comfortable booking on the
YTB reported $226
million in 2006 sales, giving it the No. 35 spot on Travel Weekly's 2007 Power List. The company
also said it had booked $13 million in cruises with the cruise
company so far this year.
Sorensen said the
travel emphasis was what differentiated YTB from card mills, which
are merely networking businesses.
Card mills sell
access to travel discounts meant for the trade, but Sorensen argued
YTB does no such thing. He said YTB issues an entry-level ID card
that looks nothing like the Iatan card (generally an accepted form
of ID in order to obtain reduced-rate travel and other such
benefits) and is meant for use at the time of booking, not for
obtaining travel benefits.
He said YTB has an
arrangement with major suppliers whereby YTB screens all its
outside agents, called referring travel agents or RTAs, for their
productivity before allowing them to take a supplier's fam rates or
other offers meant for selling agents. He said YTB has had no
problems with any of its suppliers, including Royal Caribbean, over
reduced-rate travel for two years.
He said he assumes
most suppliers would not accept the YTB card as justification for
trade benefits, and "I don't know how to deal with that if
suppliers do accept it."
contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to Nadine
Godwin at [email protected].