Are More Internet Savvy Cruisers Booking Direct; While Others Book With Travel Agents?
Written by: Kuki
As a consumer I thought I knew plenty of agents who competed well based on both price and service, but these days, with industry policies, that is no longer allowed.
At any rate, with my only research on the hypothesis being limited to what I’ve been able to gleam reading Internet cruise-related web sites. I think today one will find that perhaps the majority (or at the very least a growing minority) of Internet savvy users are booking directly with the cruise lines, and they are using the web sites like CruiseMates more for research on cruise related information and reviews, and, for lack of better terminology, using them like cruise related social media outlets.
They’re looking to web sites for subject content; such are reviews (including user reviews), and to “talk” to other cruisers about their experiences, looking for opinions containing specific information about ships and ports of call. And of course there are many who will use it as a soap box to voice complaints. But there’s also a growing trend to use it as a form of social media, to simply chat with people in their “affinity group” – other cruisers.
In many ways the cruise web sites message boards are simply an open, public version, unlimited characters, version of Facebook, Twitter, etc. that will likely continue to grow in that vein, as even more people become more familiar using Facebook. Twitter, and other Social Media sites.
Then there are the multitudes; those who for whatever reason don’t use the Internet much, or still won’t use it for any commerce. They may well use email and other internet functions in their work, but shy away from it for other uses. As well, there those people who simply always have and always will have others making their travel arrangements for them.
Those are the people who will always contact travel agents to book their other vacations, as well as cruises. They may not even have any idea they can pick up the telephone and call a cruise line to book their own cruise.
Of course, there’s also another group; the Internet savvy travelers who are dedicated and loyal to their travel agents, and the services they provide, and they want and rely on their travel agents to do the work, as they would, and so they don’t have to.
But the trends I see, as I have described them in this blog, are really making the cruise lines the bigger winner; with a larger and growing segment booking their cruises directly through them, and they are not paying commissions on those bookings to travel agents.
While they may not have to pay commissions to travel agents, it’s not all gravy for the cruise lines. They do have the expenses of operating call centers and paying their own “vacation planner” representatives. I have little doubt though that there is a significant saving between the cost of travel agent commissions versus the cost of providing their operating centers for their own sales representatives. Even a 3- 5% savings per transaction would represent a significant addition to the cruise lines bottom line.
I don’t believe that this has been some nefarious plan by the cruise lines to push travel agents out of the business. However, they are very smart, and though it has taken the cruise lines perhaps a decade to catch up to the Internet, they have become very savvy Internet users themselves now.
They probably saw these trends long before I did, and it seems they are certainly taking advantage of them now. It’s improbable that they’d be willing to share the figures with regards to what percentage of their bookings are now done in-house, or by how much that percentage is growing year to year. But if I were a travel agent I’d sure be curious.
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Posted: October 26th, 2010 under Lisa P..