Royal Caribbean Group’s (RCG) Pay it Forward $40 million program for travel advisors is open for applications. The loan application platform provides an opportunity for financial relief for thousands of qualifying agencies

As part of the second phase of RCL Cares, the company has launched a dedicated platform where qualifying travel agency business owners can apply for financial support from Royal Caribbean. Travel partners can submit loan applications on this dedicated site accessible through cruisingpower.com. The site provides additional information and everything advisors need to know, including additional program details and eligibility parameters.

Pay it Forward, announced in December, has been designed to provide funds to the travel advisor community in the form of 3-year, interest-free business loans. It goes without saying that COVID-19’s effects on travel partners’ businesses have been debilitating, and RCG is working to help you rebuild and recover.

In order to qualify:

  1. The applicant must be the owner or an authorized representative of the travel agency.
  2. Agency commission earnings with RCG have been at least $4,000 for bookings that sailed between July–December 2019. These minimums and eligibility requirements may vary by state.

On Day One of the Pay It Forward program launch, over 800 travel advisors applied. Dondra Ritzenthaler, senior v.p. of sales, trade support, and service for North America, UK, & APAC, Celebrity Cruises, explains that the amount each advisor/agency will qualify for depends on the commission earned between July through December 2019. Payments to advisors will be up to 25 percent of the commission earnings—on Azamara, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and Silversea—with a minimum payment of $1,000 and a maximum of $250,000. If you’re 25 percent of your commission is less than $1,000, then you don’t qualify for this program. She adds that, “This is not a first-come, first-serve basis.

“We have literally done the math—$40 million should be enough money for everyone who qualifies for a loan, that chooses to ask for, and get the loan, that we will have enough funds to be able to provide this assistance.”

pay it forward
Dondra Ritzenthaler.

Ritzenthaler adds, “It’s interest free with no payment due until after the first year—the 13th month of the loan is when you have to start paying it back.”

Note that travel agencies in California, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington, D.C., as well as Canada are not currently eligible to apply but Royal Caribbean Group is working to extend availability to these locations—plans are to add these locations within the next two weeks or so. Ritzenthaler adds they have earmarked dollars for when these destinations can be added in.

“It’s in our DNA at Royal Caribbean Group,” says Vicki Freed, v.p. of sales, trade support and service, Royal Caribbean International. “The travel advisor has played an instrumental role to our success for 50 years, and it’s important for us through good times and more challenging times that we’re there for them. It’s our way of giving back to the distribution system that has been so good to us.” She adds that, “It’s no different to always look after the communities we serve, our extended families…even in times of hurricanes, we’ve always used our ships or ability to provide for others. Even when we had the government shut down a few years back, we opened up our cafeterias at our headquarters, and we said to any government employee, ‘If you would like to come for lunch, and take home dinner for your family, you’re more than welcome. It’s complimentary.’ It’s who we are, it’s our core values.

pay it forward
Vicky Freed.

“The most important thing an advisor can do right now is stay in contact with their consumers, with their clients, with their prospects,” says Freed. “If the consumer has Future Cruise Credits (FCCs), and there are thousands of people who have that, we want to make sure that those FCCs to go to the same travel advisor who sold them the original cruise. There is pent-up demand for travel. In 2022, we are expecting travel to be hugely popular. People are tired of looking at their four walls in their homes; they want to vacation. Some are starting [travel] now; others are waiting. It’s critical that the advisor stay in touch with the consumer on a regular basis.”

When asked what cruising might look like in the future and if RCG will require vaccines, Ritzenthaler notes that they’re awaiting CDC guidelines. She adds that, “We will know more when we know when we can come back. It’s logical that if we can sail in May or June, not everyone will have the vaccine. And if it’s later before we can sail, and the vaccine is readily available, it might take us on a different path. But right now we’re in a holding pattern.” Freed adds that the company does want their crew to be vaccinated, saying that would be a “high priority for our corporation.” And adding that what they do know is that all passengers will be required to have a COVID-19 test done three days prior to sailing.

In addition, in light of the Small Business Administration reopening the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to make additional federal funding available to small businesses, RCG has teamed up with ACAP + The Loan Source to help facilitate travel advisors’ PPP applications. ACAP + The Loan Source specializes in helping to ease the application processes for PPP loans and forgiveness. Travel partners can begin their PPP loan application here with ACAP + The Loan Source at any time.