Special Report: Cruise.co.uk charts course for growth in UK and Germany

Special Report: Cruise.co.uk charts course for growth in UK and Germany

Europe’s largest cruise agency has ambitious growth targets for next year, boss Seamus Conlon tells Lucy Huxley

Online cruise retailer Cruise.co.uk plans to grow its UK turnover by 15% and that of its German business, Kreuzfahrtberater (KFB), by 30% next year.

Chief executive Seamus Conlon said UK growth would be driven by an even greater focus on packages, a better “leveraging” of its consultants, a “supercharging” of its Facebook marketing, a new mobile booking funnel and a greater push for online bookings.

He revealed 46% of KFB’s bookings are made online, compared to nearly all customers calling one of Cruise.co.uk’s consultants in the UK. Cruise.co.uk bought the German online cruise travel agency last year.

Speaking at the cruise specialist’s annual sales conference in Villars, Switzerland, Conlon said: “KFB has reviews of individual cabins. They have a lot of content and information that gives people the confidence to book online. We can learn from that.”

Package focus

Cruise.co.uk turned over €155 million last year, with packages making up a third of all sales, although a lack of capacity in the Mediterranean in 2017 reduced its short-haul package capacity.

Conlon said this year would see much greater focus on long-haul tailor-made cruise packages with the likes of Wendy Wu Tours and Intrepid Travel, at price points of nearer £6,000 per person, and more exclusive offers pushed out to customers by email.

“We send eight million emails a week and that’s going to get even bigger,” said Conlon.

Facebook

Conlon revealed his advertising spend on Facebook surpassed that of pay-per-click advertising for the first time in 2017 and said he planned to “supercharge” outlay through the site in 2018.

He added: “We want to own the Facebook space and do that by using our own consultants. We have 127 consultants, only 19 of whom have been with the company less than a year, so they are hugely stable, knowlegable and experienced.

“We have a 65% repeat rate: customers come back because of their relationship with our consultants, so we want to leverage that further.

“In December 2017, our consultants’ reach was 1.9 million. In January 2018, it was 4.5 million. We saw Cruise.co.uk in Facebook feeds 112 million times last year and that will grow this year. We have 250 Facebook adverts running at any one time.”

Mobile mission

Mobile now accounts for 45% of Cruise.co.uk’s total traffic, hence the investment in a new mobile platform that went live this month.

Conlon said the company would also look to improve its sales of luxury, expedition and river cruises, but that these sectors were not a priority.

KFB’s growth will come through better use of its significant web traffic and by offering packages for the first time. “They don’t sell packages at all so we see this as being a huge upside for our German business,” said Conlon.

Conlon also plans to make Seascanner, the brand acquired as part of the KFB deal, even more international next year.

The website currently operates in Ireland, Scandinavia, the Middle East and Botswana, delivering seven million visits, but has the potential to extend to other markets, he said.

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