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Principal–Agent Relationship Within a Cruise Supply Chain Model for China

Chu, Angela Mai Chi; Hsu, Cathy H. C.


Cathy H. C. Hsu


Changes in travelers’ booking habits and the evolution of technology have come to threaten the existence of traditional travel agents (TAs). However, the cruise industry still relies heavily on TAs as its main distribution channel. A qualitative study was conducted to investigate the networks, relationships, and power distribution between cruise companies and TAs using a triangulation method via a tourism supply chain model. Principal–agent (P-A) theory was taken as the framework to describe various parties’ relationships and roles. Several TA business models were identified, including group blocks (i.e., guaranteed and nonguaranteed) and charter cruises (i.e., retail or resale and corporate; meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions). Results show an imbalance of power between parties due to unique business practices and customer preferences in Mainland China. Principals (i.e., cruise companies) were found to rely excessively on agents (i.e., TAs) to create demand, with the growing number of cruise lines leading agents to overpower principals. The alliance among TAs further affected the principal–agent relationship. A refined tourism supply chain model tailored to the cruise industry is thus proposed herein; this cruise supply chain model simplifies the complicated business network relationships between cruise companies and TAs in China.


Chu, A. M. C., & Hsu, C. H. C. (2021). Principal–Agent Relationship Within a Cruise Supply Chain Model for China. Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research, 45(6), 998-1021.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 7, 2020
Online Publication Date Jan 15, 2021
Publication Date 2021-08
Deposit Date Jul 19, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jul 19, 2022
Journal Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research
Print ISSN 1096-3480
Electronic ISSN 1557-7554
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 45
Issue 6
Pages 998-1021
Keywords cruise, tourism supply chain, principal–agent theory, travel agency, distribution, China
Public URL


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