An online marketplace where travel agents can advertise cruises for free is to launch tomorrow (July 4).

Cruisepricescompared.com is the brainchild of Harley Van Stratten, a former tour operator with Voyana, who wanted to find a way to help agents advertise cruises without eating into their margins.

Van Stratten said: “Each month the money agents earn from cruise sales is being eroded because competition is pushing prices down. Agents are having to discount to compete and that means they can’t afford to advertise.

“On cruisepricescompared.com, they can advertise for free, which means they can start increasing their margins because they are not paying distribution costs.”

Van Stratten said the site will make its money from adverts from cruiselines as well as agents and suppliers, such as travel insurers and airport parking companies. Cruiselines will also be able to buy a weekly video slot on the homepage.

Initially, all money will be ploughed into advertising the site to consumers. “Where there are adverts for cruising, we will advertise too,” he said.

Van Stratten admitted he has avoided talking much about the site until today’s announcement to the trade through Travel Weekly for fear of copycats, but said reaction to the few casual conversations has been good.

He said: “I see it as a win-win situation. It’s a free and easy way for agents to advertise, cruiselines can get deals out through more agents and consumers have a cruise marketplace offering very keenly priced holidays.”

Agents who are members of ABTA or the Travel Trust Association can register online from July 4. As soon as they are accepted, which will take a matter of minutes, they can start advertising using a series of simple drop-down menus.