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RELAX. IT’S NOT WHAT IT SEEMS.

The problem began with a piece in the Globe and Mail about a travel deal offered by Rocky Mountaineer that clearly stated, “you must book directly through Rocky Mountaineer (bookings through travel agents are not eligible) to take advantage of thee promotions.” Adding insult to injury, and stupidity to a seemingly dumb decision, Rocky Mountaineer is currently hosting agents and media on an inaugural train journey.

Well didn’t that cause a kerfuffle? Social media went nutso as agents and others tried to contact the company for an explanation.

Part of the deal also involved earning up to 20,000 Aeroplan points and one agent wrote on Facebook that, “We have already complained. Their response is that we have the option to buy Aeroplan points at our expense and match them. Clearly they do not value the retail trade.”

However, apparently things were not quite as bleak they seemed. Word soon came that travel agents could actually book Rocky Mountaineer’s Canadian Resident offer, but to do that they have to book it through the rail company’s call centre.

The Travel Press quoted Nicole Ford, director, communications and stakeholder relations for Rocky Mountaineer saying, “Travel agents are valued partners. Our call centre is experiencing higher than usual wait times, but we are prioritizing 2021 bookings.”

“If an agent is looking to book a client with this offer, they can do so by calling one of our in-house vacation consultants.”

Ford added that the Canadian Resident offer can also be combined with the Fairmont offer on eligible bookings. You can check them out HERE

It’s not the first time. It’s not a one-off

But this whole situation raised some issues. TripCentral president Richard Vanderlubbe, who has chaired ACTA in the past and sat on various Boards suggests there is a larger issue here that is worth exploring.

“ It’s classic in the domestic tourism industry.” Vanderlubbe told us in an email yesterday. “Our domestic industry is small and cottage like in many ways compared to other countries with more developed and full year infrastructure. The sophistication is limited. Hotels and other tourism businesses often do this – offer a local deal direct to consumers – and then they, and provincial tourism organizations and ministries – wonder why there is so little action by the travel industry in Canada selling Canada to Canadians.

“When you’re so often undercut, you just give up. If they fail to understand that by bundling their products with flights and working with tour operators and travel agencies to offer value without touching published prices, they can fill unsold rooms without being market disruptive.”

Vanderlubbe rightly points out that, “The classic marketing mistake ‘let’s cut price and fund it from not paying a distributor’ repeats over and over again. Trying to cut price for local rubber tire / direct market incremental business is just so stupid. They are counting on the fact that international travellers won’t notice the local / direct deal. Meanwhile the internet puts pressure even on foreign tour operators trying to promote the product.”

“It’s this idea that the promotion and distribution of their product and service can be done cheaper by themselves, or that the trade will do it for free, or that a consumer will knowingly pay more to buy it from a distributor.”

That path is ‘folly’ says Vanderlubbe, adding, “The airlines, cruise lines, large hotel chains all learned their lessons on this over many years, but it appears bit players and newbies fall into the trap or repeat the mistake.”

All true. This is a lesson that needs to be learned – and remembered.

Here’s the bit from the Globe and Mail.

First published at Travel Industry Today

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