Expedia Cruises, a full-service leisure travel agency that is part of Expedia Group, is boosting its focus on technology as it aims to provide an omnichannel strategy that can meet the needs of all travellers.
Company executives shared highlights of its efforts during the opening day of the Expedia Cruises 2021 Virtual Conference, a three-day event for its network of franchisees and vacation consultants.
In the coming months, Expedia Cruises will roll out a new “info site” intended to give cruise shoppers information about what is on board the ships, what is included in the cost and the types of experiences they can have at each port.
“We’re focusing on cruise in a big way, and it’s a long-term focus for us. We want to be the leader in digital experience and content, the leader in supply and transparent pricing, the leader in service and trip management,” says Greg Schulze, senior vice president of transport and cruise at Expedia Group.
The new site is part of Expedia Cruises’ omnichannel strategy, launched in late 2020, that brings all cruise content into one platform that gives travellers options to do their own research and booking or to connect to an agent that they can interact with online or in-person.
Since last year when Expedia Cruises closed its Las Vegas call centre, all phone calls are directed to local Expedia Cruise retailers who can provide personalised service and even meet with travellers face-to-face.
Schulze says the goal is “to ensure we give our travellers a best-in-class experience, whether that’s a cruiser who prefer a face-to-face approach with an agent... or maybe it’s a first-time cruiser who prefers to start online and then they are going to pick up the phone, they have some questions, we can do that too.”
Along with solutions to simplify and personalise the experience for travellers, Expedia Cruises has been updating its technology for agents to make better use of Expedia Group’s full capabilities — part of a transition that has been happening since 2013 when Expedia Group took full ownership of the company (formerly known as CruiseShipCenters).
Last year it began migrating its agents into Expedia Group Partner Central, the company’s global travel marketplace, and in February it launched new tools to make it easier for agents to filter and compare options for customers.
Matthew Eichhorst, president of Expedia Cruises, says all of these efforts are intended to make Expedia Cruises the top cruise agency in North America as the industry rebounds in the next few years.
“Getting off old technology and onto the Expedia platform gives not only the richer consumer experience but also access to that supply because our Expedia Cruises stores do sell all travel,” Eichhorst says.
“It’s an undertaking that will take a number of years to fully experience all of the goodness of the Brand Expedia platform, but we’ve also made huge progress in the last 15 months, during the pandemic, because that’s been our focus — how do we pull the band-aid off and get into the Expedia technology.”
Cruise travellers are booking longer trips
Along with discussing technology updates, Expedia Cruises is sharing new data about bookings.
The company says the average length of a cruise bookings jumped from nine days in the first quarter of 2019 to 11 days in Q1 2021, and the average spend per cabin has also increased for those same periods by just over 100% for sales through its retail stores.
Forty-four percent of new bookings in Q1 in the United States are for departures during this year and 20% are for this summer.
And new research from Expedia Group and Wakefield Research finds compared to other forms of travel, cruise is the only type where “travellers from numerous countries ranked low pricing as the top value.” Also, Gen Z travellers in North America rank environmentally-friendly policies as their second priority after price.
Eichhorst says the company will continue to enhance the content it provides about cruise lines’ environmental policies for travellers and agents, and he hinted the company will be launching other communication tools soon to better communicate “the complexity of the cruise offering.”