Two-and-a-half years after introducing its disruptive start-up model in the world of cruise, UK-based cruisingexcursions.com is poised to expand its international reach.
The firm, which will turn over £6 million this year, has created new websites for the Germany, French and Dutch markets and expects to make a splash after seeing considerable growth in the UK.
Having agreed deals with the UK’s big two, Thomas Cook and Tui Travel, the firm has seen sales increase 400% this year, double what it had projected.
It turned a profit last year according to accounts filed last September and is now out of its start-up phase and a fully sustainable business, founder and managing director Simon Purchase told Travolution.
He was in London this week to meet with the technology firm Correl8 which built the existing website and has created its second version including its international sites in just eight weeks.
Purchase admitted at first it was a hard slog convincing agents to feature his product, but the signing of the big two was a turning point.
“We have had a very successful couple of years. It’s gone round in a circle to the point where people are asking us whether they can take product.
“With Thomas Cook and Tui Travel now offering excursions to their passengers, customer are now asking their agents if they can do their excursions.”
Purchase said agents have also been forced to seek out additional revenue opportunities since cruise lines cut commission to agents – the UK’s leading operators by as much as 10%.
With 10,000 tours in 700 ports worldwide, Cruising Excursions believes it is well ahead of any potential rivals in a sector tipped as the next battle ground for disruptive technology.
Behind the business, however, is more than just fancy technology it has contracted its own tours and organises its own transfers to give it control over the product.
The firm’s entry into the sector has seen local tour guides and operators previously frozen out by the major lines able to grab a slice of a growing and lucrative market.
At the same time a market that was sewn up by the operators has been broken open, offering customers significant savings on their on-shore activities.
Cruising Excursions now claims to have 8% of the UK cruise market of 1.7 million annual cruisers. It had originally targeted hitting 2% after two years.
Purchase said trade distribution has played a key part in the firm’s growth, rising from just 10% at the outset to 50% today.
European expansion isn’t Cruising Excursions first foray overseas; it already has a health business to consumer operation in the US and has just signed with Harvey World Travel in Australia.
But Purchase said he expects its latest expansion will cause further ripples among operators who are seeing good growth in cruise in Europe particularly in Germany, the second-biggest market.
“When I started this business I never thought there was this much money in excursions. The dramatic growth from direct and agents has been incredible in comparison to what we budgeted for.
“I’m obviously very pleased with the company’s success and am driving the business forward in the future to inhibit potential competitors.
“This sector has been a closed shop for 20 years. The cruise lines have never put their prices down they have always put them up. What do they expect?”
Cruise Excursions plans to launch an app that will allow customer to book their cruises while they are away, up to a day in advance.
It has also developed an API although this is not being used widely to date, most agents approaching shore excursions as an after sale add-on rather than inserting them into the booking flow.
The firm also hopes to add pre- and post-cruise trips, something failed rival Shorex set out offering but was unable to make work.