Member-only flash sale site Voyage Prive claims to have turned a corner in the cruise sector having started working with a third party operator at the end of 2011.
John Bevan, UK managing director, said the last three offers it has featured saw around 1,000 room nights sold with an average booking value of £4,500.
The push into the cruise sector came after a poll of the site’s registered users that saw 22,000 respond found 35% wanted to see more cruise.
However, Bevan said it has not proved possible to persuade cruise lines themselves to work directly with the site and he has struck up a partnership with a single unnamed operator.
“We are struggling to work with cruise lines directly. The biggest challenge they have is flexibility, not being able to offer one particular partner something different to everybody else.”
Bevan admits Voyage Prive is not the easiest site to work with as it insists the deal has to be exclusive and the best value offer in the marketplace.
But he said some of the smaller dynamic packagers of cruise are able to exploit the new route to market because they are prepared, and have the ability, to put together unique deals.
“We are working with a little operator who basically takes commitment on a ship and that allows them to offer the excitement and the value add that makes it worthwhile being a member of the Voyage Prive closed user group.
“What we are not about is price, which is what the rest of the industry seems to go after, so people are buying on the basis of the value add rather than just the price,” Bevan said.
Popular offers have included Hawaii and Las Vegas twin centre holidays and Mediterranean winter cruises with operators including Norwegian (formerly NCL), MSC Cruises and Princess Cruises.
Prior to working with the cruise supplier after last year’s World Travel Market, Voyage Prive had experimented in the sector, taking some deals direct from Holland America Line.
Although bookings were small in volume – around 20 to 25 – because of the higher ticket price Bevan was pleased with the performance which briefly made Voyage Prive one of HAL’s top UK sellers.
Bevan said he hoped cruise lines would start to recognise the potential of the flash sale channel, but if not he was keen to find more third party deal providers to work with.
“We have to get smarter in selling cruise,” he said. “So much is driven on price and chopping away at commissions when I think there is a real opportunity to distribute more cruise product.
“Lines are building more and more ships and they are struggling to fill them. They do seem to have their hands tied. Unless you are a top seller they show very little interest and there is no real vision to say this could be a real opportunity for me.”
Bevan said the recent Costa Cruise tragedy in Italy would not put him off targeting the sector for growth. “It might make a few people think but on the whole I hope it will not put people off because the cruise companies are all extremely professional, the ships are amazing and the equipment onboard means they are extremely safe.”
If cruise continues to grow at the current pace Bevan hopes to be able to give it its own channel with product in sub-categories, having just launched these in revamped flash sale results pages.
Voyage Prive now has 700,000 UK members and Bevan said it has seen record sales in January with revenues running at three-and-a-half times the same month last year.