Companies Snap Up CruisePath Business

New technologies try to fill the void in online cruise booking

By: By R. Scott Macintosh

Three companies are emerging as the main contenders to replace online cruise booking technology in the wake of CruisePath’s demise.

Phoenix-based OurVacationStore (OVS), Fairfax,Va.-based TravTech and the Global Distribution System (GDS) company Amadeus have positioned themselves to pick up new business by licensing their online cruise booking technology since CruisePath shut its doors May 5.

“There is a natural void that was created by CruisePath,” said Ted Davault, president of OVS. “Now everyone is looking at the same time. There aren’t a lot of things out there. So we’ve just had a feeding frenzy.”

CruisePath offered the main technology for booking cruises via the Internet and powered the systems for GDSs and agencies like Sabre Cruise, Worldspan Go Cruise, Vax Cruise, AAA, Cruise Shoppes, Trisept Solutions, Giants, Liberty Travel, and TRAMS Inc.

Since CruisePath shut down, many companies have scrambled to get a replacement technology in place.

Some have anticipated that a new technology would be needed after CruisePath filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last November and have made quick decisions.

Cruise Shoppes, the consortium focused on selling cruise vacations, has selected OVS’s CruisePartner technology to replace CruisePath.

The new relationship with CruisePartner offers affiliate agencies a lower booking fee of $5, compared to the $20 fee charged by CruisePath. An additional $99 monthly fee will be charged for the technology. CruisePartner also powers cruise bookings for

TravTech, which is funded by the husband and wife team of Dan and Gloria Bohan who also run Omega World Travel, is marketing its CruiseBase technology to agents. The technology has been in development for years and now links directly to Sabre for inventory.

Dan Bohan, TravTech’s president, says the technology company has newfound freedom since CruisePath folded.

“Sabre required us to go through CruisePath since they had an exclusive agreement with them,” Dan Bohan said. “CruisePath hampered us since they put is in a queue to get pricing. So that information was outdated by the time we got it. They were basically in the way. Their passing is one of the best things to ever happen to us.”

TRAMS, a software provider for travel agencies, has teamed up with Amadeus to offer the Amadeus Cruise to ClientBase customers. Amadeus is offering the technology free to all travel agencies.

Other companies are still looking for alternatives. Worldspan Go Cruise is actively looking for a permanent replacement for CruisePath, according to a company spokesperson.

The technologies from all three companies are designed to give agents tools needed for selling cruise travel, and are more sophisticated than a general online booking engine.

The technology gives agents yield and rate management tools, systems that allow them to look at specific inventory at specific prices, and methods for managing the back-end reporting and customer service. They offer commission information and details on ship layouts.

“The old tools don’t work because there is not a lot of incentive for agents to use them,” Davault said.

Travel agencies now account for about 95 percent of all cruise bookings. This is attributed to the cost of cruises. Consumers are more inclined to book with an agent since cruises are viewed as an investment.

“People need more help with cruises,” Bohan said. “Cruises are not the commodity that airplane tickets are. It’s a more complex product. That’s why travel agents control so much of cruise bookings.”

Still Bohan says that the industry is changing and three- to four-day cruises are becoming more of a commodity, meaning consumers might be more apt to purchase them online.

Though cruise bookings made online represent a small percentage of overall travel bookings, it is expected to grow into the “next big thing” in online travel.

Amadeus is developing a new technology launching this summer that targets online booking.

Amadeus API for cruises gives businesses the tools to build consumer-based cruise booking engines. It is meant to give the growing numbers of online shoppers the chance to book cruises, and to do it through travel agent sites.

“As pricing for some cruises continue to drop it only makes sense for travel agencies to sell those products in the most cost-effective way, which is online,” Stephane Durand, Amadeus Director of Travel Service Providers, said in a statement.