Growth in online cruise bookings in the UK is being held back by inadequate technology, the cruise forum at the Abta Travel Convention heard.
Nick Longman, distribution director at Tui Travel said he saw no reason why penetration of online bookings could not be up to five times what it is today, at around one third of the market.
But delegates heard that the complex nature of the product means that booking engines are not yet sophisticated enough to make the automated booking process as good as selling over the phone.
Peter Shanks, Cunard president, said: “The booking engine needs to be improved. Because of the complex nature of ships we have not come up with an industry standard. I think that’s what we need to move towards.
“Picking a telephone up and doing it that way is how the majority of business is currently happening and there is nothing wrong with that.”
Agents, who sell the majority of cruise in the UK mostly prefer to sell on the telephone because of the opportunity for upselling.
However, Longman said: “There is no reason why we can’t get online penetration up to 30%. It’s about putting good enough information and content on the site and not too much. I think we could see three, four, five times the level of online booking we have at the moment.”
Longman said the trade must work harder to make sure cruise is part of the “consideration set” for holidaymakers who have never even thought about taking a holiday at sea.
Social media could offer the answer, he added: “To ignore the power social media can have to get to those consumers would be foolish. We are not doing it at the moment, but it’s certainly part of our strategy.”