Tech In Travel: A new way of selling cruises; VR gains new friends; the sector that ‘knows too much’ but not enough; Asians are going local via OTAs, cruise ships get TikTok

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Cruisebound, a new online travel agency for cruise travel, has launched with US$10 million in Series A funding, led by former Booking Holdings chairman and Priceline CEO Jeff Boyd and PAR Capital Ventures.

Other participants are TripAdvisor founder and former CEO Steve Kaufer, Concur founder and Madrona Venture Group managing partner Steve Singh, Link Ventures founder Dave Blundin, and Plug & Play Ventures.

Cruisebound, led by co-founder and CEO Pierre-Olivier Lepage, says it offers the customer service of an offline agency with the price comparison and instant booking of an online travel agency.

The site is targeting first time cruisers with a mobile-first approach that is intended to appeal to millennial and Gen Z travellers.

Cruisebound says during its year of beta testing, 91% of bookings were made on a mobile device.

Users can compare prices, itineraries, ships and cabin types from major cruise lines including Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and MSC.

Every booking includes live post-booking customer service through phone, text and email.

“When booking my first cruise, I was surprised at how difficult it was to research and book online – and nearly impossible on a mobile device. My go-to travel sites for booking flights and hotels are not designed to sell a complicated cruise product. This is clearly a leading factor in the divide between cruisers and non-cruisers,” Lepage says.

 

Cruisebound is working with many of the major cruise lines by offering the customer service of an offline agency with the price comparison and instant booking of an online travel agency.

 

“We designed Cruisebound to sell cruises and only cruises. We offer an easy-to-use site that is optimized for mobile, which is where younger travellers prefer to research and book vacations. Then we combine the instant booking of an online travel agency with the live customer service of an offline agent.”

Boyd said technology companies have improved the travel planning and booking process for consumers in flights, hotels, vacation homes and tours “and there is an opportunity for our experienced and innovative team to build scale with a single-minded focus on building the best consumer experience in cruises”.

“The founders of Cruisebound have a proven track record of solving customer pain points by leveraging data science and experimentation to build great products.”

Cruisebound’s founding team also includes Rocket Travel co-founders Jay Hoffman and Bjorn Larsen. Advisors include Agoda co-founder Bryan Lewis, Priceline Partner Network co-founder Andrew Loewen and Atle Skalleberg, former COO of Flight Centre Travel Group.

Source: Phocuswire

 

Eviivo, the hospitality software company, has released its list of the top travel trends of 2023 with – not unexpectedly – mobile apps, automation, APIs – which Eviivo calls the ‘Holy Grail technology’ – and omnichannel platforms leading the way.

Eviivo also has high hopes for virtual reality which it says, “will wear the crown for determining places to visit”.

“While most people say virtual-only trips leave too much to be desired at present, 46% admit they would be more likely to travel to new places after visiting them virtually, and with Metaverse introducing virtual and augmented reality, travellers will soon have plenty to choose from.

“Virtual reality will also be more common on websites to offer virtual tours, which is known to increase bookings, improve guest review scores and simply stand out from competitors,” Eviivo’s survey found.

 

One key finding of Datalex’s The Digital Airline 2023 report is a disparity between how travellers view airlines on the topic of innovation versus how airline executives assess their companies.

Just 11% of the travellers surveyed say airlines are ahead of other e-commerce websites like fashion, Amazon, etc. in terms of modern online retail strategies. Yet 24% of the executives surveyed believe their companies are ahead of other sites and 17% believe they are on par.

“These findings indicate that airline executives are hugely underestimating the reality of the perception gap that exists between airlines and their customers,” says Datalex chief technology officer Brian Lewis.

“Unwittingly, perhaps one of the factors that contributed to the travel industry’s delay in catching up to other e-commerce sites, is the oxymoron of those who ‘know too much’.

“The travel industry is full of experts and industry stalwarts who know the business inside out, and because of this there hasn’t been much input on learnings from other industries, giving credibility to the saying that ‘knowledge equals inertia.’”

 

The big three OTAs – Booking.com, Agoda and Traveloka – topped the STAAH Booking Engine’s list as the top online booking channels worldwide that brought the highest booking revenue to hotels in 2022.

The top 10 online booking channels across the world are ranked accordingly:

  1. Booking.com
  2. Agoda
  3. Traveloka
  4. Expedia
  5. STAAH
  6. GO-MMT
  7. Tiket.com
  8. Trip.com
  9. Airbnb
  10. Hotelbeds

“The pandemic has evolved travellers’ booking behaviours and preferences. Our data indicates accommodation providers across the board are leveraging a combination of traditional and new channels to attract guests for a more holistic and dynamic distribution, guest booking and revenue strategy,” says Tony Howlett, CEO of STAAH Ltd.

Airbnb continues to be a strong contender in the accommodations sector especially with more traditional hotel businesses utilising its channel over recent years, showing the continued convergence of hotels and short-term rentals.

However, the OTAs are not just the ones racking in the hotel bookings. An increasing number of travellers are also making direct bookings on hotel websites.

For countries with reduced international travel over the past few years, STAAH’s data also reveals a higher preference among travellers for their own regional online channels.

For Malaysia, Traveloka, Tiket and MG Holidays are among the top. In the Philippines, it’s Ctrip and Hotelbeds. In Indonesia, it’s Traveloka and Booking.com.

The lists of top OTAs segregated by different countries are as follow:

Top OTAs preferred by travellers from Singapore in 2022

  1. Booking.com
  2. Trip.com
  3. Expedia
  4. Agoda
  5. Traveloka
  6. Tiket.com
  7. STAAH
  8. Hostelworld Group
  9. Hotelbeds
  10. MG Group

Top OTAs preferred by travellers from Malaysia in 2022

  1. Agoda
  2. Booking.com
  3. Trip.com
  4. Expedia
  5. Traveloka
  6. Tiket.com
  7. STAAH
  8. Hotelbeds
  9. Airbnb
  10. WebBeds

Top OTAs preferred by travellers from Indonesia in 2022

  1. Traveloka
  2. Booking.com
  3. Agoda
  4. Tiket.com
  5. Expedia
  6. Hotelbeds
  7. MG Group
  8. STAAH
  9. Trip.com
  10. Pegipegi

Top OTAs preferred by travellers from India in 2022

  1. GO-MMT
  2. Booking.com
  3. Agoda
  4. Expedia
  5. STAAH
  6. Travelguru
  7. Airbnb
  8. HRS
  9. EaseMyTrip.com
  10. Hotelbeds

Top OTAs preferred by travellers from Philippines in 2022

  1. Booking.com
  2. Agoda
  3. STAAH
  4. Expedia
  5. Trip.com
  6. Hotelbeds
  7. Airbnb
  8. Traveloka
  9. Tiket.com
  10. WebBeds

Source: Travel Weekly Asia

 

Carnival Corp. is the latest cruise line to roll out faster internet service across all its brands to meet customer demand for video calls, stream content and Instagram and Tik Tok posts – just as they do on land.

Carval Corp. will use SpaceX’s Starlink satellite technology to provide lower latency (the time it takes for data to reach a device) and higher connectivity.

The company began rolling out Starlink on Carnival Cruise Line and Aida Cruises ships in December and plans to install Starlink on Princess, Holland America Line, Seabourn and Cunard Line along with international brands P&O Cruises in Australia and the U.K. and Costa Cruises.

Royal Caribbean Group also plans to install Starlink across its entire fleet, including Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea brands. Hurtigruten also uses Starlink, and Windstar has been exploring whether the service would work for several of its ships.

Source: Phocuswire

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