Cruise websites are failing to provide enough information and engaging content to attract more customers into the sector and address why people reject holidays on ships.
Speaking at a Travolution session at World Travel Market, Stefan Hull, insight director of search marketing agency Propellernet, claimed there was an “information shortfall” on sites in the cruise sector, which meant they were “patchier” than other sectors.
“Content should be about getting the person to the point where they are ready to book. It seems ludicrous there is not better content on these sites,” Hull told a debate on how cruise is harnessing the potential of online marketing.
However, Andy Harmer, director of the Association of Cruise Experts, rejected criticism of the cruise industry claiming it was actually far more advanced than other sectors.
“It’s easy to find things that are wrong. I believe the cruise sector is doing better than other sectors in the way we go to market, work with agents and work with social media,” he said.
Hull told delegates customers often needed to be guided to the right cruise ship because they did not know exactly what type of cruise holiday they wanted.
This could be done by asking users to answer a series of questions on their holiday preferences. “Why are we not helping people make these decisions?” asked Hull.
He called on cruiselines and agents to differentiate their sites, use “real people” in their online videos and not focus so much on price. “Show us the value first and then how much it costs,” he urged.
US-owned cruiselines also came under fire for using language and cruise jargon on their sites that many UK customers would find difficult to understand.
Carnival Cruise Lines head of marketing Erin Johnson conceded there was some truth in this. “Our sites are mainly geared at our US market. We are working hard with our brands to change that and using Facebook and Twitter to engage the UK market,” she said.
Dan Caplin, managing director of CWTdigital, said some cruise agent sites were getting it right. “We power cruise.co.uk and they are doing a lot of innovative things with user-generated content. But I think cruiselines could support agents more with intuitive content.”
He predicted online players such as On The Beach and Expedia with more sophisticated websites would soon start to sell cruise. “A lot of the bucket and spade brigade are a few years ahead of cruise agents and it’s only a matter of time before they tap into cruises,” he said.