Technology Meets Cruise Trends

Port of Miami entrancePHOTO: Port of Miami entrance. (photo via Flickr/Phillip Pessar)Cruise travel is so hot right now.

In order to determine just how hot, advertising platform Sojern partnered with Google to ascertain the outlook.

The three biggest takeaways from the report pertain to mobile planning, influence and alternative forms of travel. First, there has been an uptick in mobile cruise searches during 2017—33 percent to be exact, accounting for 29 percent of such overall searches. Second, pricing (89 percent) and entertainment (47 percent) are among the factors that influence potential cruisers.

Third, those searching for other vacations may still opt for a cruise in time.

Additionally, the report cross-referenced Google’s treasure trove of search and survey data with Sojern’s own intent information from traveler profiles and purchase signals.

As much as mobile and online are important these days, offline booking is still viable. Of past cruisers, 41 percent still made their reservations either by utilizing a travel agent or calling the cruise line directly. However, trends are certainly shifting more digital, so online travel agencies are crucial. After all, 69 percent of cruisers desire to book their next trip online.

Going digital is an influence in itself. The video specifically is cited as an important tool in capturing travelers’ attention, (which is one of the very reasons I produce my own Popular Cruising YouTube channel).

As far as marketing is concerned, there is a multitude of paths a buyer may take before booking.

One of the most common, with a 37 percent share, remains a simple cruise search followed by the reservation. However, there are also bookings that follow one or more searches for other travel forms and agencies either before or after a cruise inquiry.

In other words, agents, as well as cruise lines, should have a strong online presence, especially via social media.

As one might expect, searches for key air destinations also correspond to cruise searches. In the top ten are Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Los Angeles, Boston, Cancun, Vancouver, San Juan, Honolulu, and Tampa.

Given most of these are also cruise hubs, it makes perfect sense that a search for something land-based might transfer over to something cruise based.

The report points out that, despite the wonderful all-inclusive value proposition of cruises, it is not always what leads people first to a cruise. Rather, it’s more often about a destination or experience.

Once another gets them interested, however, the value is a great way to win them over.

It’s worth noting a majority of cruise searches still occur on desktop platforms and almost all bookings are made on the desktop over mobile. During a week, most searches happen on Mondays and Tuesdays, with three-quarters via desktop. However, by the weekend, mobile searches account for one-third of the traffic.

Meanwhile, only 9 to 11 percent of reservations are actually made over mobile versus the remainder via desktop. There definitely seems to be potential to convert more mobile searches to bookings accordingly. Perhaps apps need to mature in this area to ensure better consumer confidence.

Ultimately, there remain plenty of ways in which a traveler can research and purchase a cruise vacation. Both cruise lines and travel agents need to simply be aware of the prime marketing positions and avenues to occupy.

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Smartphone booking values up 198% year on year, finds study

 

By Travolution
By Travolution

In its latest mobile browsing and booking trends report, brand consultancy Nucleus also found that mobile had rised to 43% of all website traffic in June 2014.

Apple remains the dominant operating system, with 77.9% share and 87.8% of bookings, while Android accounts for just 19.6% of the market.

Brands that have invested in responsive design or smartphone-friendly websites are naturally seeing better mobile results, with luxury sites reportedly leading the way.

However, despite evidence that users are increasingly shifting to mobile, and Google’s warnings about penalising mobile-unfriendly sites, the travel sector was found to be lagging when it comes to implementing responsive web design.

Founder and chief executive of Nucleus, Peter Matthews, said: “We are in our fourth year of studying the growth in mobile web browsing and are seeing further significant shifts in user behaviour with affluent smartphone users, in particular, now completing high value bookings on their phones.

“Wider availability of 4G and the launch in September of the larger screen iPhone 6 are likely to accelerate this trend.

“It’s surprising in this context that there are still so many travel brands without either a mobile-friendly website or app and fewer still taking advantage of the flexibility and efficiencies of responsive design. This prolonged inactivity is beginning to look like a death wish.”

– See more at: http://www.travolution.com/articles/2014/07/30/8036/smartphone-booking-values-up-198-year-on-year-finds-study.html#sthash.mxoJPqc5.dpuf

RCCL’s new Cruise Planner replaces outdated module

By Tom Stieghorst

Going on a cruise used to be as simple as booking a ticket and making a few choices about what to do. Guests often waited until they boarded to book shore excursions and spa treatments.

But the menu of cruise activities has expanded, as have the number of things that can be prearranged from shore.

Today, cruise lines are trying to make it as easy as possible to plan and book onboard activities in advance of departure. The proliferation of options has grown hand-in-hand with the technological capabilities that make selecting cruise activities easy.

The latest example comes from Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCCL), which has retooled its planning function so guests can book everything from specialty dining reservations to beverage packages from the comfort of their couch.

RCCL New Cruise Planner

“We been focused on letting our guests hit the ground running on day one, whereas in the past, sometimes day one was spent figuring out what you were going to do,” said Jeff DeKorte, vice president for Web and digital media at RCCL.

RCCL’s new tool, Cruise Planner, replaces an 8-year-old pre-cruise planning module that was increasingly outdated.

The old system had none of the new e-commerce functions, such as shopping carts and wish lists, things that consumers increasingly take for granted when buying things online.

“Every time you bought a new product during the session, you had to enter your credit card again,” DeKorte said. “It was very difficult.”

One of the big improvements in Cruise Planner is the ability to migrate between digital platforms without losing data. So, for example, someone might start researching shore excursions in the morning on their mobile phone, continue at lunch on their desktop PC, and finish after dinner on a tablet while watching TV.

Tablet functionality, which barely existed on the old platform, is now robust, DeKorte said. He hopes that moms that typically do a lot of the cruise planning can now share the load.

“Our vision was to create a product where … the family could lean back on the couch and literally she could hand the tablet to the kids and say, ‘You guys figure out what you want to do, watch the videos, look at the shore excursions, [select] swim with the dolphins and add it to the calendar or the wish list.’

“And then mom can come back later and she can organize,” DeKorte said.

Travel agents can use the tool to the extent that they do pre-cruise planning for clients, either as a service or for a fee.

“It really depends on the agency and the level of service they’re providing to their guests,” DeKorte said. “For those agents who choose not to provide that service to the guests, there’s a much easier tool for them to direct the guest to use.”

As the list of things to prearrange before a cruise grows longer, it threatens to take some of the serendipity out of a cruise vacation. Simply showing up at the ship without a sheet of activities selected in advance seems like a throwback to a simpler time.

But DeKorte said tools like Cruise Planner are meant to provide options, not become a burdensome requirement. “The beautiful thing is for guests who want to take their vacation one day at a time like that, they certainly can,” he said.

At least one other line is also making moves to make pre-cruise planning easier.

Norwegian Cruise Line recently opened its specialty restaurants to reservations 90 days before departure, up from 45 days previously. Guests can also book entertainment options such as Blue Man Group or Cirque Dreams on the Norwegian Epic, Breakaway and Getaway through their MyNCL accounts.

Spa treatments on the Norwegian Epic can now also be booked in advance. Vanessa Picariello, a spokeswoman for Norwegian, said the spa preregistration may be extended to other ships, but that Norwegian still doesn’t have a timetable for when that might happen.