Comment: Cruise giant’s move away from GDS risks cutting distribution

Dan Caplin, managing director of CWT Digital, responds to the decision of Complete Cruise Solution (trade arm of P&O Cruises, Cunard and Princess Cruises) to cut its ties with the Amadeus Cruise GDS

This is not the first time that a ‘big player’ in its field has cut commission levels and forced the trade to deal with it directly, rather than take a traditional GDS route.

Cast your mind back ten years; it seems that Complete Cruise Solution is following the same strategic path as British Airways did back then.

Although there appears to be one big difference between British Airways and CCS, a lack of direct access to customers in the UK for CCS and a heavy reliance on travel agents for distribution.

At CWT Digital, we took the decision to develop our cruise platform based on the Amadeus GDS, for one reason above all others – the demand was there from our customers, and that demand remains as strong as ever.

However, we have also had requests to develop a direct connection to CCS, which is now live and working well, as would be expected with such a ‘cruise giant’.

Although CCS has assured the trade that upgrades and assistance will be available to help agents sell through, how might this affect the rest of the cruise industry?

Customers require robust websites with high speed searching and quick price retrieval. Unfortunately most cruise lines do not have the technological capabilities to rely solely on direct connections and continue to work with flat files.

It’s their ability or inability to keep these up to date and provide links to live pricing on a timely basis that will determine the future success of this strategic decision.

There is no denying that this is a bold move from CCS, as other technology companies have found to their detriment; direct connections can be costly to the agent as a result of inaccuracies in pricing and booking availability, and costly to the technology provider having to maintain multiple connections with very different profiles.

So will this mark the beginning of the end for Amadeus as the main consolidator of cruise information and pricing?

I don’t think it is for one minute. For the majority of cruise agents it remains the most robust and cost effective method of running their websites and ultimately making valuable bookings.

This is why CWT Digital will continue to offer GDS partners to our clients. It is understandable that in the current climate CCS wishes to cut its distribution costs, but it needs to be mindful that it doesn’t cut off its distribution.

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