Former Fred Olsen Cruise Lines and Direct Ferries sales and marketing directors Nathan Philpot and Andrew Crowe have teamed up to launch a new cruise comparison website.
Thecruisechecker.co.uk is planned to go live in December ahead of the 2017 peak booking turn of year Wave season.
Philpot and Crowe were at this week Abta Travel Convention speaking to cruise lines and agents about the venture, which they are initially funding themselves.
Crowe, co-founder and chief commercial operator, said: “When we looked at it no one else was doing pure comparison. Price will be an element but only an element.
“In my experience with ferries price was only the third or fourth component people wanted behind date time and brand, and that was in a much more commoditised market.”
Philpot, co-founder and chief operating officer, added: “Cruise is very confusing, especially for new to cruise customers. They do not really know where to start and want someone to make it simple.
“We will be a consumer champion. We want to feed people with the cruise that’s right rather than the cruise that’s left.”
The Cruise Checker will provide suggestions based on itineraries, ship size and brands to meet on criteria the consumer stipulates and then sell those leads on to operators and agents.
“We will work with agents and cruiselines, anyone who wants to fulfil customer requirements,” said Philpot.
“We know people want to do their online research and then speak to someone to make the booking. The agent or operator will be in full control of that conversation.”
Philpot said many agents have invested in in-house expert cruise sales staff but do not have enough leads to supply them with.
The firm is working with Ipswich-based technology company Simple Click to build the website, and using Traveltek to access the cruise content from operators.
It will initially focus on the UK market before expanding into the core European cruise markets of Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the Nordics and then go global.
There are also plans to eventually branch out into other niche sectors like coach hire and ferry.
A six-month launch period will be used a pilot to establish the model, Philpot said, before outside investment is sought. Crowe said there has already been interest from some potential investors.
Philpot said initial reaction to the new venture among the trade has been very positive. “Most people in my experience do not want to be sold on price and that’s why the website will have a quality feel about it.
“Everything I learned at Fred Olsen was people want value and are fed up of everybody pushing promotions and deals at them. We want to find the right product for them.”
Crowe left Direct Ferries in May where he was sales and marketing director for two years, and Philpot left Fred Olsen in July where he had been sales and marketing director for five years.