The ‘horrible mess’ of shore excursions

By Tom Stieghorst

Cruise lines are starting to see declines from one of their most important revenue streams, shore excursions. That was one of the admissions made by newly named Royal Caribbean International President Michael Bayley at a forum for agents onboard the Freedom of the Seas.

Bayley gasped in mock horror after asking the group of about 250 agents whether they sold Royal Caribbean’s branded shore excursions or somebody else’s. In unison, they chanted “Somebody else’s.” When he asked for a show of hands, well over half the group responded.

“You know, we do have to change the system,” Bayley said in a half-joking, half-serious tone. “It’s a horrible mess.

“We must spend more time talking about this than I don’t know what else,” Bayley added. “We’re always trying to find the right solution.”

Elliott Finkleman, owner of an Expedia CruiseShipCenter outlet near Ottawa, said both Royal Caribbean and travel agents could make more money if Royal paid a commission on excursion sales.

“You’re losing out because it forces me to sell alternate product,” Finkelman said. “I don’t want to spend a lot of time on shore excursions, going port by port, and get nothing back from that.”

Vicki Freed, Royal’s senior vice president of sales, trade support and service, said that the line does pay commission on group shore excursions and that guests with excursion tickets sold through Royal get first priority in getting off the ship at port.

And Bayley reminded agents that there are some risks with third-party providers.

“If they’re selling at lower prices, they’re paying these commissions, chances are they do not have the same liability coverage and they have not gone through the process of safety for the guest that we go through,” he said.

Bayley said excursions have always been an important part of the cruise revenue pie.

“We all have revenue streams and we all try to protect them,” he said. “We have seen an erosion over the past couple of years, and it’s pretty obvious where that erosion is coming from, after our show of hands.”

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