Virgin Voyages will break with most of the cruise industry
by not deducting an NCF charge before paying commissions to travel sellers.
However, Virgin will not have the traditional "tiered"
ladder in which commission rates rise incrementally as sales go up. It will
have annual bonus commissions at certain levels.
Virgin said its policy will mean travel agents make more on
a Virgin sale, all other things being equal.
"We are committed to delivering an 'Epic Sea Change' by
getting rid of things that annoy you and offering incredible value and experiences
for your clients," said Virgin Voyages CEO Tom McAlpin.
McAlpin said the strategy was built on research with travel
professionals aimed at "abolishing long-standing pain points."
Of the major brands, only Viking Ocean Cruises does not
assess so-called non-commissionable fares. The NCFs exempt 10% to 15% of the
gross fare from commission payments.
In addition to axing NCFs, Virgin said it will pay
commission on "all add-ons," such as flights, hotel stays, insurance,
shore excursions, spa treatments, onboard credits and premium packages.
Virgin said it will even pay commission on taxes and fees.
The commission rate, however, will be 10%. That's less than
other lines, which escalate rates by 1% for each sales threshold achieved, up
to 16% for top producers.
Virgin said its top producers can earn a year-end "Red
Hot Bonus" of 2% for selling $1 million to $4.9 million in voyage fares,
4% for $5 million to $9.9 million, and 6% for $10 million or more.
"While the debate is often about this percent versus
that one, the underlying issue travel professionals have is not being
compensated for their hard work on the entire sale," said Stacy Shaw, vice
president of sales for Virgin Voyages. "With our combination of premium
pricing that includes so much more, no NCFs and the ability to earn on
everything you sell, total dollars earned on every sale with us will be more,"
Virgin also said that it will not break out gratuities as a
separate charge for passengers. Base fares will cover gratuities for staff.
That brings gratuities into the basket of items on which agents can earn
Virgin said that its deposit structure will include a 24-hour
hold on a cabin with no money down. After that, a nonrefundable deposit equal
to 20% of the fare will be assessed, but passengers have a seven-day grace
period to back out.
Once booked, voyage dates and names on bookings will be
subject to change without penalties or fees.
Virgin will host an immersive learning campaign beginning
Feb. 6. The Cabin Fever program will help agents learn about cabins and
RockStar suites, which the company recently detailed and said are a "key
Virgin's first ship, the Scarlet Lady, is scheduled to enter
service in early 2020.