Cruise industry urged to improve online strategy

Cruiselines need to improve their online distribution strategies, Carnival UK chief executive David Dingle has admitted.

Carnival UK – made up of P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Ocean Village and Cunard Line – gets 10% of bookings direct from consumers online and through traditional channels. The remaining 90% comes through the trade.

Of this 10%, just 3% are direct bookings made online, Dingle revealed at an e-tid breakfast briefing this week.

The Ocean Village brand – to be phased out by the end of 2010 – attracts the most direct online bookings in the Carnival organisation at 8%. “It’s not surprising the web bookings we see tend to be at the lower end of the prices as customers are risking a lower amount of money,” said Dingle.

US cruiselines are making better headway in terms of their web strategies while it remains a big opportunity for the UK market, particularly as many older customers use the web regularly.

He said: “The web strategy is clearly very important. The cruise industry as a whole probably needs to get better in its web strategy; I do not deny that. There is a lot more opportunity.”

The web remains an information tool for most UK cruise holidaymakers, mainly because it is an expensive product that consumers prefer to book through an agent for advice and reassurance.

Dingle added: “What we still tend to find is the web will be used for information gathering. For someone who has not cruised before it’s still quite a large purchase and there needs to be third party endorsement.”

Dingle denied the cruise company was slowing down a move to sell more cruises direct because of a backlash from agents.

“I don’t think we are sitting here getting worried that we shouldn’t allow direct access because it will upset agents. Agents are quite mature enough to see the bigger picture.”

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