The concern about rebating among some of
the top cruise lines is being welcomed by many travel sellers.
Theres talk of integrity, pricing stability, a level playing field.
It is said that the cruise lines are acting to protect and
strengthen the distribution system.
The cruise lines
are also making it very clear that they are not, in so many words,
prohibiting rebating. Rather, they are promising to reduce their
level of compensation and/or support for distributors who advertise
discounted, nonpublished or noncontracted rates. The unspoken
assumption is that, to the extent rebating and discounting
continue, it should happen quietly.
Discovery has been following a similar policy, evidently with some
Weve been hearing so many good
things about these initiatives that we decided to ask our Evil Twin
(E.T.) if theres a downside to all this. He thinks there might
First of all, on a
theoretical plane, he observes that anything that inhibits vigorous
price competition is bad for consumers. Furthermore, E.T. said its
a short step from discouraging the advertising of discounts to
prohibiting such advertising, and from there to prohibiting
suppliers have the right to stipulate the marketing practices of
their agents, even to the point of price maintenance, E.T. feels
that too much stipulation can lead to stagnation and stifle what is
supposed to be a dynamic sales force. E.T. recalls that, long
before the commission caps, the airlines were the supplier group
agents most loved to hate, largely because the airlines kept
telling them what to do and what not to do.
are no signs that the latest moves by the cruise lines have put the
distribution system on that slippery slope, so we told E.T. to take
a hike -- but to leave his cell phone number just in
the applause of a grateful travel industry, President Bush has
signed H.R. 4417, a law that gives the 27 countries in the Visa
Waiver Program another year to comply with a U.S. requirement that
they issue passports containing biometric identifiers, such as a
The Visa Waiver
Program allows U.S. citizens to enter those countries without a
visa, and vice-versa. Congress decided to make biometric passports
a prerequisite for participation beginning this October, but wisely
passed a second bill to extend the deadline after the travel
industry pointed out that international travel could dry up because
so few countries can meet the deadline.
Now that we have
this breathing room, we are emboldened to wonder why the October
deadline was ever written into law in the first place.
It should be
possible for Congress to give the executive branch a mandate
without committing 27 sovereign nations to an unrealistic deadline.
Considering all the work that our government should do, we believe
far too much time, energy and anxiety was wasted on the making and
correcting of this mistake.