By Kelly Monaghan
CruiseCompete is a website that allows tirekickers … er, I mean “cruise shoppers” … to post a message about where and when they want to cruise and then sit back while travel agents cut their throats … er, I mean “compete” … to come up with the absolute lowest, rock-bottom fare.
As you might have guessed by now, I do not recommend you use CruiseCompete as a means of getting new business, especially if you are new to the business. If you have been around for a while and have access to inventory (you know who you are) then maybe, just maybe, this could be an addition to your marketing arsenal. But for most of us, CruiseCompete represents “the competition.”
However, CruiseCompete issues monthly reports on cruise trends that are worth at least a cursory glance. Here is a link to the latest.
From these reports you will “learn” the “most popular” cruise lines, cruise ships, departure ports, cruising regions, and so forth. So the “most popular” cruise lines in the contemporary category are Carnival, RCL, and Princess.
Why all the quotation marks?
I use quotes because all this information must be taken with a grain of salt. Or to put it another way: Consider the source.
The rankings are based on “the total number of quote requests for each particular line in the given month.” Requests coming from people, let us not forget, who are cheapskates … er, I mean “bargain hunters.”
For example, can Disney Cruise Lines really be the seventh most popular cruise line among people who have sailed on all the top seven cruise lines? I think not. My guess is that the people drawn to CruiseCompete know that, even at “bargain” prices, Disney is going to be out of their price range.
Similarly, you will note that Paul Gaugin and Star Clippers, arguably among the very best of the luxury lines, rank dead last in “popularity” among CruiseCompete’s bottom feeders … er, I mean customers. I suspect that the kind of cruisers who are in the market for a trip on one of these lines are not the types who need to pinch pennies and thus are unlikely to seek out CruiseCompete. They are also very specialized products that CruiseCompete’s customers might not even know exist.
Still, these rankings have value if you look at them through the right lens. They do tell you what products price sensitive consumers are looking at most closely and that intelligence will have a certain value as you strategize in your own marketing efforts.
More useful, in my opinion, is the cruise pricing index that tops the report. It is a rough index of how pricing at the bottom is moving. Interestingly enough, you will see that it doesn’t vary all that much. But these figures can help newcomers to the business recognize whether a given price point represents a “good deal” or not.
Let me say that I have nothing against CruiseCompete. From what I have been able to see they provide a valuable service to a large number of people and I am sure they are a fine upstanding company with the very highest standards.
It is my personal opinion that using CruiseCompete is not a very wise strategy for any but the largest travel agencies, the ones who have the very best volume-based relationships with certain cruise lines and who can, thus, make a nickel in this kind of marketplace. It is also my opinion that the sort of people who use CruiseCompete (like those who swear by Travelocity and Expedia) are not the kind of customers most of us want. To that extent then, CruiseCompete is doing us all a service by servicing them.
However, as I point out over and over again in the Home-Based Travel Agent Success Course, my goal is to show you how the business really works in all its manifold variety and allow you to make your own informed decisions. If you use CruiseCompete, now or in the future, I’d be interested in hearing your experience.