Technology Hampers Online Bookings

The day when 100% of all cruises and vacation packages are booked online is far, far away - and may never come - according to a new survey by PhoCusWright.

By: Robert Carlsen

The day when 100% of all cruises and vacation packages are booked online is far, far away - and may never come - according to a new survey by PhoCusWright.

The complexity of arranging all of the components of cruises and travel packages is hampering a quick technological solution, PhoCusWright stated in its Online Travel Marketplace 2001-2003 study.

These travel products represent a small amount of online travel sales, accounting for just $420 million of the $14.5 billion of travel booked online in 2000, or 3% of all online and offline cruise and vacation package sales.

Cruise lines sell less than 1% of their product online, the study said. PhoCusWright, however, said that the lines' web sites are "impressive decision influencers." For instance, Royal Caribbean International said it estimates that 60% to 70% of all travelers are using the Web for data collection.

PhoCusWright revealed that consumers who have never used travel agencies - which account for almost all cruise sales - learn about cruising from the Web and become new customers.

The survey also noted:

" When buying cruises or vacation packages on the Web, consumers continue to execute that decision, by and large, over the phone, with a human being.

" A sale begun on the Web and completed offline has a far higher and faster close ratio than one originating in another distribution channel.

" Cruise and vacation packagers have been waiting 20 years for technology with the sophistication and graphic capability to manage complex combinations of multiple components and to present a rich experience, in living, interactive color. The Web, said PhoCusWright, is that technology.

" Online cruise/vacation sales are expected to jump 460% in three years to reach $2.4 billion by 2003.

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