There has been a lot of hype over the past two years about online
consumer cruise-booking capabilities. Some cruise lines have
implemented affiliate programs that allow you to add a link on your
Web site that, when clicked on, will deliver your customers to
their Web site for the purpose of booking a cruise. Another
company, CruisePro, offers you the ability to add consumer-booking
capability for several cruise lines to your Web site. For this
convenience, you will pay $100 per month plus $20 for every booking
made through their system.
A few months ago, PITA conducted a survey of 3,150 travel
agencies to find out what results they were seeing with these
technologies. Seven hundred and forty five agencies responded to
the survey; 210 claimed to have some form of cruise-booking link on
their site, while 14 claimed to have actually experienced a booking
from their Web site.
Too much emphasis has been placed on developing booking
technology, and too little emphasis has been placed on shopping
technology. The best and most effective technologies are always
consumer driven. In other words, the technology grows out of a need
expressed by the consumer. Technology should be applied only in
cases where there is a strong consumer demand for the technology.
There has never been a reported case of a consumer refusing to take
a cruise because of their inability to book and pay for the cruise
over the Internet. Consumers have shown that they are willing to
spend countless hours reading brochures and scouring the Internet
to find the perfect cruise vacation. Why then would anyone assume
that taking the time to pick up the phone and call a travel agent
to book the cruise would be a barrier to making the sale?
In fact, I would bet that many consumers who book online require
the same amount of hand-holding after the booking as those who do
not book online. Therefore, the online booking does not reduce the
cost of delivery. Consumers want to shop on your Web site and they
prefer to buy from a real person. Your telephone and your
personality, not a booking engine, are the best tools you have at
your disposal to make a sale.