October 22, 2013
Cruise Agents Call for More Streamlined Technology
By Drew Hendricks
If you’re like most people, you probably don’t give much thought to the technology that cruise lines depend upon—you likely just show up to be whisked away on the vacation of a lifetime. However, in October 2013, cruise agents have banned together to demand better, simpler technology. Aggregation is lacking, they say, and operators are working diligently to lure these agents into using in-house systems for booking. The Amadeus System has already lost Complete Cruise Solution in 2011 since it was deemed too expensive to be worth the trouble.
Amadeus, a provider of cruise technology, is now focusing on getting agents back on board with a brand new trade platform which was developed via CWT Digital. It offers agents one-stop-shopping to quickly find and compare products. However, this isn’t boding well for the cruise lines, who want agents to use their technology. This makes agents jump around from line to line, and it just doesn’t make sense—on the other hand, it also offers the appeal of more commissions for the agents.
Where’s the win-win?
Agents will do the extra work to earn more commissions, but it’s making them slower—and that is getting passed down to customers. They can’t compare deals as easily as they could with one system, and in some instances they’re losing sales entirely. Agents came together this month to compare notes, and everyone reported the same thing: Jumping around from in-house tech to in-house tech isn’t working any longer.
Jetline Cruise agent Paul Frost said, “Lines have pushed everyone away from Amadeus because they want to entire you to sell their product. This is no bad thing, but to ask an agent, who has a customer who does not know what they want, to log in to Norwegian Cruise Line, to Cruising Power for Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, to Complete Cruise Solution, to Polar for Carnival, well, no agent’s going to do that.” Frost’s sentiments were shared.
A chasm to fill
Clearly, there’s a need for technology in the cruise industry to help everyone work together in this complex system. “To run an effective business, you can’t have an agent spending three or four hours on one customer trying to find something when they don’t even know what they are trying to find. Agents are fighting against what should be a really simple process,” Frost concludes.
Global Travel Group managing director Andy Stark agrees. “There is no aggregation for every other type of product, but it seems to me there’s no aggregator for cruise.” In the past, Amadeus was the go-to source, but it just became too expensive when agents could be kept “within their own framework,” says Frost.
A big opportunity
So far, nobody has really jumped on developing a solution to this problem. Right now, cruise booking systems don’t let agents search for particular ports along with dates. Will Amadeus be able to solve this problem? That’s up in the air. Frost says no agent can be expected to do these kinds of intricate searches with the current technology, because it would take hours and they may end up with nothing.
It’s both agents and customer stuck in a tough situation right now—they both want the same thing (great cruises at the best prices with agent insider knowledge), but the technology just isn’t there yet. Once somebody, Amadeus or not, steps up to the plate, a problem solved will lead to a better situation for everyone involved. “People just want simplicity,” says Frost, and right now there are five different avenues for booking the exact same cruise. Oftentimes, luxury and technology can be mutually exclusive, but it’s time the cruise industry upped the ante.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi