It’s no secret that online bookings for cruise vacations have lagged behind other areas of the travel industry, but this has been changing as the overall population becomes more comfortable and, in some cases, totally dependent on using technology. The online revolution has changed the way consumers research and shop for everything and cruise vacations are no exception. Whether consumers book their cruise online or simply start their research there, today’s business needs to be ready to assist them throughout the entire process or risk losing them to a competitor. And all signs indicate consumer use of smart phones will continue to increase as more people are constantly connected to social media, making mobile technology increasingly important.
Deploying the right technology is an essential decision point for travel agency owners. Some of their agents may prefer to use an interface provided by the cruise line, while others may prefer third party tools that provide a single platform for multiple cruise lines. It is essential that an agency owner deploy a cruise booking engine that facilitates the maximum efficiency for User’s booking experience, whether this be a consumer booking online or a professional travel agent.
This includes unique selling features like Agent-friendly features such as a Single Sign-On to the Agent home Page. Live access to cruise line pricing and availability ensure the most accurate information is provided. A cruise booking engine should have rich content such as cabin photos and descriptions integrated throughout the selling process to assist travel agents and consumers alike in selecting the right cabin. The ability to easily compare sailings during the shopping process and provide cabin upgrade options at cabin selection are other features to look for.
Agency post booking management functions should include easy access to a customer’s receipt, so an agent can view and send booking details, print a copy or apply payments. The ability to send a booking related Email allows Agents to communicate with the customer using existing email templates as well as custom text. Tools that cross check a booking with a Supplier can be a valuable in identifying and correcting discrepancies while a Clone Booking function allows the Agent to search the same itinerary for a new booking creating time-efficiency.
Many travel agencies will require a cruise booking engine with backend integration to their CRM and accounting systems to avoid manual retyping of information. Integration with CRM technology can also help streamline the processes, by understanding the customer requirements especially for repeat cruise customers. Some travel agency managers also require administration tools to track the performance of their agents. Flexible tools that can quickly define business rules to adjust a product selling price or promote a special offer are critically important to remain competitive. The ability to bias the availability screen to preferred suppliers can also be a valuable tool and part of a comprehensive third-party cruise booking engine.
Finding a cruise booking engine with the right combination of options for your business can be a critical decision. Finding a technology partner that will help you reach today’s mobile consumer where and how they shop for travel can be just as important.