Royal Caribbean Maintains Commission Tiers Through 2022

Royal Caribbean International will maintain 2020 commission levels throughout 2021 and 2022, Vicki Freed, the line’s senior vice president-sales and trade support & service, announced in her weekly Coffee Talk webcast with travel advisors.

“We want to support you,” she said. “You are key to our success.”

Freed gave travel advisors the rare opportunity to ask questions of her guest (and boss) Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

Fain good-naturedly took questions about cruising’s return to service as the pandemic eases, what the new normal will be, why refunds and cruise credits are taking so long, and how travel agents are vital to the industry’s rebound.

When asked about the resumption of cruising – the company also extended its suspension through July 31 – Fain said it will most likely be phased in with reduced capacity on ships. “We do expect the comeback to be gradual, very much like the opening of our communities,” he said. “In the beginning, we will probably limit capacity, just like local restaurants are.”

He declined to specify new screening, sanitation and cleaning protocols, saying he wanted to wait until the entire process is finalized since the situation keeps changing.

But he agreed that serve-yourself buffet lines will probably end, at least in the beginning. “The idea that you go into a buffet and everybody reaches in and touches the same tongs, we’re very likely not going to see that on land or at sea,” Fain said. “We might have it when all of that is served to you by other people, among other possibilities.”

But new procedures eventually be embraced, much as the world accepted new screenings and ID checks at airports after 9/11. “After 9/11, all of a sudden, we had to undergo a strip search at the airport, and we couldn’t take a bottle of water on the plane. Our whole world changed,” he said.

Eventually, “we were all back flying again,” Fain said. “Airplane travel didn’t end; in fact, it grew. But it evolved so it isn’t the same. We do get security checks and identity checks. Frankly, we’ve become accustomed to it, and technology made it easier. The same thing will happen on cruise ships.”

As for delays in processing refunds and future cruise credits, Fain said the company’s system that usually “works smoothly” was overwhelmed by the sheer number of requests.

“The volume simply exploded. A very nice system that works for a volume of X doesn’t work with a volume 50 times that. We simply weren’t prepared for it,” he said.

Complicating matters was the increased number of employees working from home. He said the process is improving but is “still not as fast and efficient as we would like it to be.”

When cruising operations begin to crank up again, travel advisors will be a vital piece of the recovery process. “In the world there’s still a lot of confusion about Codiv-19 and what it means, so their role communicating that to their clients is even more important,” Fain said.

That’s why educating the agents is key. “In order to educate the public, they have to have the information themselves. Not only do we need the best procedures and protocols to ensure a healthy return to service. … We need to educate the travel advisors so they can educate their clients.”

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