We cannot blame agents for feeling uncomfortable about booking
clients on a cruise line that decides to preempt agents by
soliciting their passengers directly the next time around without
It is wrongheaded and ethically questionable for suppliers to
woo away clients introduced to them. It's a violation of trust when
a supplier offers those passengers an exclusive deal by direct
mail, available through its toll-free reservations line or over the
Internet, precluding an agency's role.
That is why Tony Persico, chairman of Cruise One and Cruise
World, both subsidiaries of TSI (Travel Services International),
the leisure company formed last year by former Avis chairman Joe
Vittoria, asked his company's management team to drop Florida-based
Renaissance from its product list, prompting discussions with the
The line argues the promotion was a one-shot deal for only one
sailing of the Renaissance VI. It wanted to give an opportunity to
past guests to book because similar offers traditionally sell out
quickly, locking out loyal customers.
It seems a bit much for Renaissance to make the argument by
saying, "No one has a monopoly on customers who want to cruise," or
that "many consumers don't have a relationship with travel agents
and may be intimidated using an agent."
So the line paid full commissions to agents who called on behalf
of their clients inquiring about the sailing. But why only
Members of the API consortium also have had their ups and downs
with Renaissance over the same issue and such matters as an attempt
by the line to pay only $100 for a first booking, regardless of the
Renaissance claims it is heavily booked. The agencies involved
may not matter to the line -- TSI's combined bookings represent a
mere $300 million -- but Renaissance at least ought to let its
agents know when the "specials" are coming.
There's no mystery here.
We do not know of any business that feeds customers to its
partner, expecting that its beneficiary will then go over its