Agents relying on sales of heavily discounted cruises and basic itineraries could lose their business to the internet, Traveltek managing director Kenny Picken has warned.
Instead, agents should be looking at more creative ways to sell cruise and embracing the dynamic packaging market, said Picken, whose company is once again the headline sponsor at this year’s UK Cruise Convention which is has sponsored since it started five years ago.
Picken said it would not be long before basic cruise packages were booked online as a matter of course. He said: “If agents are relying on that product they are either selling it on real quality service and loyal customers, which we are also losing to the internet, or they are discounting heavily. They are driving business into a dangerous corner by driving down margins and not making returns.”
Agents would not be able to survive on this business model long term, he said, adding: “They are ruining the cruise market by selling so cheaply and, over time, as that market becomes over-saturated, you will see agents that cannot survive on these margins.”
Cruise agents should instead cash in on the dynamic packaging market, which remains more of a challenge to book online. “This is a great time for agents to be more inventive and package cruises with other products,” said Picken.
As well as the growing number of bookings made online, cruise lines themselves were becoming more skilled at selling cruises direct to customers, added Picken.
“If history has taught us anything you only need to look at Ryanair and easyJet, which were relatively unknown and are now arguably the largest airlines in Europe; 99.9% of their product is booked online, including ancillaries. That is absolutely going to happen to cruise.”
Traveltek will be showcasing its iCruise products at the UK Cruise Convention. The company is now offering its reservation system in different languages.
It has already gone live in Poland and work is in the pipeline to launch in Germany and Portugal. It also plans to offer the system in French.
[The early bird rate for delegates wanting to attend this year’s convetion in Southampton runs out today. Sign up now to qualify for the discounted rate]
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