On Royal Caribbean’s most recent earnings call, President Adam Goldstein revealed that direct business is in the ‘mid to high teens’ for the Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Azamara brands and ‘growing slowly.’
It’s a trend he sees continuing: “We would probably expect that to be the case going into the future, as people prefer different channels to reach us and consumers get more knowledgeable about the cruise product, both here and in the world. But it’s very clear at the same time that we predominantly depend on travel agents to distribute our products, and we will continue to depend on them for the foreseeable future.”
Reasons for increased direct business go beyond cruise lines being more aggressive in reaching out to the consumer. “While we’re not yet seeing it with most cruise lines, we’re already seeing many other vendors using social media effectively to reach consumers,” says Eric Maryanov of All-Travel. “Southwest, as one example, has over 790,000 fans on Facebook.”
In the cruise business, it’s evident too. For example, Disney Cruise Lines has close to 50,000 fans on Facebook, and Carnival’s Facebook page (with more than 120,000 fans) was recently named in the KBuzz’s Top 40 Fan Pages on Facebook for 2010. Also, Celebrity recently launched its own YouTube channel.
Maryanov believes that social media has the potential to substantially alter the dynamic between supplier and consumer. “To me, the advent of Facebook is as serious as the airlines moving to zero commissions,” says Maryanov. “It changes the whole marketplace in terms of consumers’ perception of purchasing. Any vendor is going to figure out how to use it. So the issue becomes how do agents make sure that we get the message to the consumers that we can look after their interests better on an individual basis better than the vendor can.”