Crystal Cruises’ new relationship with Travelocity has travel
agents concerned but resigned to the fact that business is
Crystal, traditionally one of the most agent-friendly of the
lines, defended its move as a way to increase brand awareness.
Crystal joins Carnival, Holland America, Windstar, Royal
Caribbean, Celebrity, Disney, Princess and Norwegian as the online
agency’s cruise products.
“In our view, Travelocity is simply a travel agency that
operates online as opposed to having physical retail locations,”
said Adam Leavitt, senior vice president of marketing. “In
actuality, well over half of their cruise business is closed
through their call centers, as it is in most traditional agencies.
This percentage might be even higher for Crystal’s cruises.
“As one of the largest online travel agencies, Travelocity has a
huge audience, and from a marketing perspective they give Crystal
an opportunity to cost-effectively increase our brand
Travelocity is launching the partnership by promoting Crystal’s
early-booking discount program, The Best of Everything. Discounts
listed online are the same as Crystal’s offers to travel agents.
However, Travelocity is sweetening its offers by prepaying clients’
Travel agents said this offer is in line with other client
value-added benefits, such as picking up the costs of some shore
“Cruise and vacation suppliers are looking at agencies and
consortiums that have big mailing lists or the ability to reach a
large audience, which are already presegmented to quickly sell
their products,” said Susan Pisani from Cruisin Easy in Santa
Maria, Calif. “This is advantageous to them so that they hit load
factors earlier than what has unfortunately been the industry
standard of close-to-date booking this past year, thus boosting
their bottom line.
“I would love to be outraged, but as the saying goes, ‘It’s
nothing personal, it’s just business.’”
Obviously, agents are most concerned with pricing that the
Travelocities and Expedias of the world will severely undercut
“I find it interesting that Crystal wants to mass market its
product through Travelocity,” said Steve Cosgrove of Dynamic Travel
& Cruises in Southlake, Texas. “I do not think Travelocity has
the clients or markets the Crystal product the way Virtuoso does.
If Crystal isn’t careful, they risk trashing their rate integrity
and eroding their future yields by going in this direction.”
Not so fast, Leavitt said.
“While Travelocity might be driven on price, Crystal is not
going to offer fares on Travelocity that are in any way lower or
different than our fares that are available to any travel agency,”
he said. “Any consumer who books a Crystal cruise through
Travelocity will be paying what they would pay through any
“Part of our strategy in entering into this relationship was to
grow our brand awareness in advance of the launch of Crystal
Serenity (in May 2003). We feel that it will take some time to
generate substantial business through Travelocity, but we are
optimistic that, with consistent marketing and promotion, this will
prove to be a mutually successful partnership.”