Agents criticise ‘disheartening’ ultra-low cruise deposits

Ultra-low deposits in the cruise sector are leading to more work, higher cancellation rates and lost commissions, according to the trade.

Agents have shared their frustration at increased workloads during low-deposit promotions, saying customers often book multiple sailings with the intention of cancelling the majority as they want to give themselves options and are happy to lose the deposits.

The frustration comes after agents voiced annoyance at lines dropping prices once on sale, resulting in customers cancelling and rebooking (Travel Weekly, March 7).

Paul Hardwick, head of commercial at Fred Olsen Travel, said he avoids low-deposit bookings as typically customers who book the sailings do not follow through when it comes to paying the full balance.

“I’m not a fan of low deposits,” he said. “The cancellation rate on those cruises is really high and I would avoid them as much as possible because we don’t get paid. “Last year, we saw deposits as low as £1. Customers would book several cruises, but when it came to paying the balance, they didn’t want to go.

“At Fred Olsen Travel, we account for bookings on sale, so if a customer cancels the sailing, our balance sheet is down and it looks like we are losing money.” Travel Counsellors agent Emma Otter described low deposits as a “gimmick”. She urged cruise lines to reevaluate their low-deposit offers and acknowledge the problems they cause.

“I would love [lines] to review the cancellation rate of those booking at such low deposits as it is significantly higher [than regular deposit bookings] and people even admit they’re happy to book and lose the deposit money,” she said. “It’s disheartening as it is encouraging time-wasting and saying it’s acceptable, which it’s not.”

Alison Earnshaw, managing director of World Travel Holdings, said “savvy” customers secure sailings on low-deposit cruises as a placeholder and then wait to see if the line launches a campaign where the same cruise is available at a cheaper cost, prompting them to cancel the initial booking, lose the deposit and rebook, creating more work for the agent.

“Existing cruise customers are increasingly savvy and will monitor pricing on the cruise they have booked,” she said.

More: Operators and OTAs respond to Which? claims over ‘confusing’ low deposits

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