With policy update, Tauck cracks down on discounting
Tauck is saying “no more” to discounting.
In an email sent to travel agents, the high-end tour operator issued an updated marketing and commission policy, effective Sept. 1, stating that “never in our 90-year history have we promoted our journeys based on price, as we firmly believe that doing so would seriously undermine a premium brand such as Tauck that has been built on superior quality, service and value.”
In a two-page document. Tauck outlined a series of criteria travel sellers must follow in order to book Tauck products.
Among the standouts are that travel agents cannot advertise or promote any Tauck product for a price less than the published Tauck fare.
Additionally, agents may not pass along their commission rebates to guests — a common discounting workaround — and Tauck is capping at $150 any value-added items or services that agents provide their clients.
“I know many agents who spent a lot of time selling Tauck only to lose the sale over a 5% rebate their client found online,” Steven Spivak, Tauck’s vice president of global sales, wrote in an email. “Hopefully, with this policy that all goes away, and there is a restoration of faith.”
Not allowing discounting isn’t new for Tauck. The company said it has had a no-discounting policy in place for almost a decade.
But it appears that Tauck is now taking a harder tack on that policy. Do an Internet search for “Tauck discount,” for instance, and several large online retailers such as AffordableTours.com and TourVacationsToGo.com crop up in the top search spots. Further, the resulting URLs often have the word “Tauck” within them, which the operator claims creates confusion.
To avoid that confusion, the new policy states that the Tauck name may no longer be used in domain names, sub-domain names or website URLs not owned by Tauck.
It also stipulates that the Tauck name cannot be associated with the words “discount,” “rebate,” “on sale,” “save %,” “save $$,” “gift card,” “gift certificate,” “gift,” “cost,” “low cost,” “price,” “lowest price,” “best price,” “beat any price,” “special price” or similar terminology.
“The integrity of our brand and our guest experience was being compromised,” Spivak wrote. “We have always asserted that the price is the price is the price, so regardless of what channel a guest chooses to purchase their Tauck experience through, they will pay the same price as all other guests.
“Rebating is at odds with that value. And whether you call it a rebate or a discount or a reward or an incentive, it is all the same. And unfortunately it rears its head when guests are sitting at the dinner table on tour, and those are not productive conversations. That diminishes the experience for everyone.”
There are some additional items outlined in Tauck’s 2015 Marketing and Commission Policy that agents are advised to note, as well.
For example, there is an item called “booking transfer fee,” stating that if a booking originally placed by a guest with Tauck is then transferred to an agent more than a week after the original booking, Tauck reserves the right to charge the agent a $250 fee per guest.
There are some competitive issues, as well. The policy states that travel agent websites may not employ excessive repetition of Tauck’s name or Tauck’s copyright-protected materials to populate their site in an attempt to skew search results.
Agent websites will also be prohibited from using a Tauck-related search to redirect users to another page with unrelated content.
Tauck isn’t the first operator to take a strong stance against the price-driven online discounting marketplace.
Four years ago, Collette completely stopped selling to three big online discounters: AffordableTours.com, Pavlus Travel and TouringForLess.com.
Asked if the new policy was an effort to communicate to large online agencies that Tauck, too, did not want to do business with them, Spivak said, “Some of these agencies employ outstanding advisers who are passionate and knowledgeable about our product. They represent us well, and we hope they will adapt to this policy and continue to be partners of Tauck.”
Spivak acknowledged that for some companies, discounting is key to their revenue management strategy and that there will always be consumers who will shop based on price.
He added that he did not see this new policy rollout as the severing of old ties but as an opportunity to forge new ones under slightly different terms.
“For premium brands like Tauck, we see great opportunity for those who discounted or rebated in the past to use their incredible Web expertise and knowledge of our product to continue to grow their businesses,” Spivak said.