Other cruiselines will gradually follow the lead of market leader Carnival UK and cut commissions, the chairman of the UK’s biggest cruise website has conceded.
Speaking at an ITT dinner in London last night Andrew Gardner, who heads up Cruise.co.uk, formerly Victoria Travel, was asked about the future following Carnival’s move to a 5% flat rate earlier this year.
“A few years ago Thomson tried this, it did not seem to work, somehow,” he said. However he added: “Will other cruiselines follow suit? I’m sure they are looking at it very closely and weighing up whether it’s for them.
“I think people will change over the next few years and I think it will be a gradual move. It won’t happen overnight. But there is change going forward in everything we do. With the web more operators are going to sell direct. But there is always going to be room for a good agent that moves with the times.”
Carnival’s move to 5% was touted as a way to stamp out some of the worst discounting in the industry.
However, many agents complain they just can’t live on 5% and accuse Carnival of having fuelled the discounting culture by supporting large cruise retailers like Gill’s Cruise Centre, that went bust this year, and prior to that Victoria Travel, which the operator part-owned until a management buy-out in 2007.
Gardner said there was a place for discounting in all areas of retail and he did not see it going away. “Curries, DFS still like to see discounts in their premises. People want a deal. I think the drive for growth and the incentives to grow in cruising was perhaps the bigger issue which drove discounts even lower.”
Despite his views on commissions and growth of direct sales Gardner was very upbeat about the future prospects for the cruise industry. “I think it’s just going to get bigger and bigger,” he said.
“Those of you who have not cruised ought to cruise. I have a theory that everyone wants to cruise they just don’t know it yet. It’s my job to convince you of that.”
Cruise.co.uk has grown into the UK’s largest cruise community with 10 millions visitors using it to research cruises every year. The average user spends six minutes on the site which equates to 120,000 hours a year.