Oasis Travel is to turn its cruise call centre into a high street shop to meet growing demand from customers to book face-to-face.

Cruise Beyond will become Northern Ireland’s first cruise-only agency by the end of the month following a renovation of Oasis Travel’s Howard Street store in Belfast.

It launched in 2017 with two staff and has since grown to seven in an office above the store it will now occupy.

Owner Sandra Corkin (pictured) said: “It’s grown and grown. A lot of customers were saying ‘can we come in and see you? Where are you?’ So I thought we needed a dedicated cruise agency.

“When people are spending a lot of money on a cruise, they like to feel confident when booking, especially if it’s their first cruise, so they want face-to-face contact.”

The shop will be rebranded Cruise Beyond, with Oasis Travel in the corner of the shop fascia.

Online and phone cruise enquiries will still be handled from offices in the same building, while Oasis’s appointment-only business Portfolio will continue to be based in the same property, which was acquired from former rival Knock Travel in 2017.

Following the renovation, Cruise Beyond will feature a virtual reality area allowing customers to explore new ship Celebrity Edge, as well as cruise-themed wallpaper featuring other lines including Silversea Cruises and Royal Caribbean International.

Corkin said cruise makes up about 30% of Oasis’s business.

Last year, Iglu-owned Planet Cruise launched in Ireland, offering departures from Dublin and Irish airports, while independent agent Thompson Travel created a cruise loyalty scheme, The Cruise Counter, to drive bookings.

In Britain, cruise-only agencies opened last year in London, Manchester, Wales and the Suffolk town of Woodbridge.

MoreSpecial Report: Cruise shops sail on to high street