Princess Cruises and Holland America Line are following the lead of sister brand Carnival Cruise Lines by requiring travel agents to handle more tasks online.
The two lines told agents that beginning Dec. 2 certain functions would have to be done via the Polar Online booking engine, such as triggering booking confirmation copies, extending options, changing cabin numbers or amending the booking contact name. Agents may also be able to do some tasks in a GDS.
A similar move by Carnival earlier this year to require that some reservation functions be done online generated some agent backlash.
The cruise lines’ increasing push to bring more booking tasks online is clearly growing, to the chagrin of many in the agent community.
But not all.
Dwain Wall, senior vice president and general manager of CruiseOne and Cruises Inc., said last month that Carnival was "forcing our hand in automation, and we don't blame them. We agree with them, quite frankly. It's the right thing to do. But there have been some bumps in the road."
Wall is one of few leaders in the travel agent community who has publicly voiced support for making some tasks online-only, but many retailers are concurring behind the scenes. Many have said that they also want maximum efficiency from their agents and want to keep them off the phones as much as possible.
But whether agents like it or not — and many do not, citing instances when they are not near a computer or when the computer systems are too slow — this trend is not going to reverse.