Travel Republic’s move to offer cruise has been welcomed by the trade and other online agents are expected to follow suit.
The leading UK OTA announced a deal on Tuesday with fellow dnata travel-owned Imagine Cruising to promote cruise deals to its database of three million holidaymakers.
Travel Republic has previously indicated cruise was on its radar and the move is seen as underlining how the sector has become mainstream.
Lynn Narraway, Seabourn and Holland America Line UK managing director and chairwoman of Clia, said: “It's interesting a company that's focused on selling land-based holidays has now recognised cruise holidays are the future.
“What I'm excited about is it will really boost new-to-cruise and there's no reason now why the other large OTAs shouldn't follow suit.”
The last major OTA to offer cruise in the UK was Opodo in 2011 but this was short lived, the retailer saying complexity made it uncommercial.
However, Phil Nuttall, The Cruise Village managing director, said it was inevitable OTAs would enter cruise given the sector’s growth.
“Cruise must be sold by non-specialists if it’s a mainstream product. This will affect agents who discount, but it won’t affect us.”
GoCruise homeworker Ian Warren agreed: “Anything pushing cruise to the public is good, but not if it’s just at giveaway prices.”
Ian Simmonds, Travel Republic managing director, said the addition of cruise means it now offers “an unparalleled range of options to UK holidaymakers”.
Peter Shanks, development director at Imagine Cruising, claimed to have had strong support from cruise line partners.
“As cruise becomes a mainstream holiday choice it makes sense to offer Travel Republic customers a comprehensive cruise proposition.”
Cruise.co.uk marketing manager, Sukie Rupal, said: "This was always going to happen when Imagine were bought and a natural fit hence adding cruise to the portfolio and website.
"If Travel Republic offer the great holidays that they have experience in selling combined with a cruise it will make a great experience and reach the right and wider audience which puts cruising in front of a bigger audience.
"More ships, more itineraries all around the world makes cruising ideal for global focused players.
Travel Republic is promoting ex-UK and popular fly-cruise options on leading lines and marked the launch with exclusive offers.
A marketing campaign will run throughout December and January.
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