A Cruise-Booking Quandary

Chris Dikmen, Professional Internet Travel Alliance 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

By: Chris Dikmen, Professional Internet Travel Alliance

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.

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