Agents slam P&O Cruises’ direct marketing leaflet as ‘kick in the teeth’

P&O Cruises ship Arvia
By Harry Kemble
24/02/2023
Home » Agents slam P&O Cruises’ direct marketing leaflet as ‘kick in the teeth’

Travel agents say a P&O Cruises’ Summer Savings leaflet, which encourages customers to book direct with the line, is ‘a kick in the teeth’.

The leaflet sent to customers carries the wording: “Book with us for added reassurance”, but doesn’t mention that people could also book through a trusted travel agent.

One cruise specialist, who asked not to be named, said he was alarmed at the leaflet.

“I’ve been in travel for 16 years and booked P&O Cruises from the very start,” said the homeworker, who normally takes £50,000 of P&O Cruises bookings a year. “The insinuation is a bit of kick in the teeth.

“They are intimating that it’s less secure booking through a travel agent.

“I’ve never seen this kind of marketing before.”

Another agent said the message in the leaflet was disappointing, adding: “We give them [P&O Cruises] so much business.”

P&O Cruises said customers who received this leaflet might have previously booked direct, as marketing materials are tailored to different booking behaviours and it insisted other leaflets do mention booking with agents.

However, Richard Slater, owner of Macclesfield-based Henbury Travel, said the word ‘reassurance’ in the leaflet would upset agents.

“For agents, you could argue it’s mixed messages. On the one hand they [P&O Cruises] say the trade is important to them, but on the other hand it’s a kick in the teeth for agents,” he said.

But he added: “While agents might be disappointed about this marketing material, they need to use it and say ‘book with us instead’. There’s an opportunity to turn the negative into the positive.”

Richard, who is also north-west Chair of ABTA, posted a picture of the leaflet on his agency’s Facebook page and added several reasons why customers should book with him rather than go direct.

Phil Nuttall, Travel Village Group owner, also urged agents who were dismayed by the Summer Savings leaflet to ‘try and turn a negative into a positive’ and look to promote the benefits of booking via their agency.

“We’ve been working with P&O Cruises for 50 years,” he added. “I’m in a different position to a lot of people. I’ve seen it all before through the 1990s and 2000s. P&O Cruises sales are going fantastically well for us.

“A huge percentage of people want to book online, and a huge percentage want to speak to someone who they can trust.”

Phil said he doesn’t think any cruise line could go ‘fully direct’ because they couldn’t cope with the ‘added volume’ without the support of agents.

“It’s a huge cost for the business to go direct-sell only,” he said.

A P&O Cruises spokesperson told Travel Gossip: “Our marketing materials are typically tailored to how a guest booked a P&O Cruises holiday previously, for example either direct or via a travel agent. In this instance, the guest may have previously booked a holiday direct.

“Travel agents have always and will continue to be a vital partnership for P&O Cruises.

“We know that their knowledge and personal service is highly valued by our guests, especially those who may never have been on a cruise before.

“This year, we are continuing to invest in our agents by expanding the Partnership Development team with four new roles, as well as through the Shine Rewards Club.”

The spokesperson added: “We are also shortly to announce a new ship visits programme in 2023, to give agents the opportunity to experience everything our fleet has to offer.”

Since speaking to Travel Gossip, P&O Cruises has released dates for its trade ship visits. See the list here.

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