Travel agents, take note: A California businessman believes his new Web-based travel company will make would-be travelers feel more comfortable about purchasing a product as complicated and costly as a cruise vacation over the Internet.
Pasadena-based 7 Blue Seas launched its Web site, www.7blueseas.com, in late October, but its CEO and co-founder, Daniel Kwoh, doesn’t have the typical travel-industry background that most agency executives claim. Kwoh came to travel from the world of technology, where he was the co-founder of Gemstar Development Corp., inventors of the VCR Plus videotaping system that assigns numeric codes to specific programs, making it easier for users to tape their favorite shows.
Following stints with two venture-capital “angel” funds, Kwoh developed 7 Blue Seas, hoping to apply his technology background to the cruise market, which now sells just 5% of its product via the Internet.
He concedes, however, that 7 Blue Seas has its work cut out for itself.
“Few people understand the intricacies of booking a cruise,” Kwoh said. “They do not know the difference between the cruise lines and know even less about particular ships in their fleets or the ports they shop in, even people who have taken a cruise before.”
Kwoh plans to bridge that information gap with his content-rich site, which features in-depth information on the industry’s major fleets (Carnival, Celebrity, Crystal, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess and Royal Caribbean) and the ports they visit. In all, the site provides more than 20,000 photos of ships and ports of call, along with hours of streaming video content.
And if all that information still leaves the Web surfer uneasy about buying online, 7 Blue Seas will take bookings the old-fashioned way: It maintains a staff of in-house reservations agents who can be reached via a toll-free phone number.
Though the site doesn’t work with retail travel agents per se, it offers useful information such as tips for first-time cruisers as well as original cruise reviews penned by the company’s stable of travel writers which means retailers could conceivably use the 7 Blue Seas site as an unbiased information resource when researching a client’s cruise options.