Monday, October 12, 2015

Cruise Marketing: an age and vacation issue, not technology one

Skift posted an interesting article on the cruise industry's marketing issues. Their theory:
No cruise company has yet to develop an effective online booking and marketing platform for consumers. For now, they need travel agents to act as their de facto North American marketing and booking force.

We disagree slightly with their belief. The cruise industry's slow shift to self-booking is more of a demographic issue than technology.

While no cruise line or cruise seller has a great online experience (compared to other online and travel retailers), all the major companies and sites have perfectly effective self-booking paths. The huge portion of cruise bookings going through travel agents is due to who is booking those trips and what they want. Even with good marketing, cruises still cater to an older demographic. The older you are, the less likely you are to embrace the newest apps, newest booking methods, etc. Also it is harder to change habits. Calling your agent is that easy. Plus good agents still have faster comparison shopping, often have access to the harder to find deals and can guide you through the a la carte choices needed beyond room, dates and price.

By comparison buying an airline ticket or hotel room is much simpler. The various pricing options are less opaque. Paying extra for a window or aisle, or suite in a hotel, is easier to comprehend than the various cruise categories on a the larger ships. Until cruise packages are made simpler, there is value in third party assistance.

Eventually cruise booking will shift. The users will demand it and the margins will lead the cruise companies away from agents. But until people demand a better alternative, agents will be selling cruises for a long time.

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