SEATTLE — Expedia Cruises has unveiled a new suite of tools to support its Vacation Consultants.
Designed to help cruise lines, franchise partners and agents more easily search for, choose and distribute cruises, the new tools were launched in response to North America search data in Q4 last year, which found that there is substantial pent-up demand for cruises in 2021.
“The cruise industry is experiencing a unique set of challenges and fluctuations as it continues on the road to recovery,” said Matthew Eichhorst, President of Expedia Cruises. “Boosted by encouraging search data at the end of last year and January this year, we want to equip our cruise partners with the best possible technology to allow them to harness demand and ensure repeat customers when travellers are sailing again.”
Following feedback from cruise partners, Expedia Cruises developed and enhanced the following tools and features:
- A new agent Cruise Search Results (CSR) view, also known as the grid view, to deliver a more agent-focused experience that allows them to more efficiently shop and compare cruises on behalf of their customers
- A Port of Call Filter that enables partners to specify the port that they want in all itineraries returned from the cruise search
- An enhanced Date Picker tool to navigate across years, an important update given the expectation of booster years in 2022 and 2023 for the cruise industry
- An updated Itinerary Filter that combines the functionality of the destination filter and the itinerary filter previously used, enabling Expedia Group Partner Central (the technology platform available to travel partners who work with Expedia Group) to support searching for multiple cruise itineraries
- New Promotion Filters, which mean Vacation Consultants can now also sort inventory based on exclusive promotional inventory and rates, including member-only pricing deals
In addition to the tools, Expedia Cruises has set up Local Vacation Consultants to help travellers make an informed decision based on local knowledge and expertise. For example, a traveller who is looking to book a trip from New Orleans will speak to a New Orleans-based Vacation Consultant who can advise on air routes and optimum sailing options.
Eichhorst says that Expedia Group data shows that when an agent handles a booking, the transaction size is typically bigger because travellers choose destinations that are further away and book more premium categories versus unassisted online bookings. In 2019 the average booking value was 84% higher when U.S. travellers booked via agent-assisted retail channels than via online channels, he said. In Q4 2020, this number had increased to 145% higher.
The new tools come at the same time as Expedia Cruises’ omnichannel strategy, which brings its cruise supply onto one platform. Launched at the end of 2020, omnichannel will continue to be rolled out in 2021.