America West Vacations, which carries a half million passengers annually, plans to launch America West Cruise Vacations late this summer.
Unlike its America West Vacations, which are sold both online and offline through travel agencies and direct to consumers, the cruise sales will be totally online, and also sold through both channels. America West Vacations is private labeled from The Leisure Company.
The launch marks The Leisure Company’s entry into cruising, a move prompted by the massive number of new cruise ships setting sail in the next four to five years, according to Jack Richards, chief operating officer of America West Vacations. America West Cruise Vacations will sell all major cruise lines, although Carnival probably will be the single largest participant. America West will be the air carrier for the cruise vacations and that means that much of its business will be delivering passengers from the East Coast, the Midwest and the Southwest to California ports such as Los Angeles and Long Beach. The airline serves 19 destinations in California and can access ports from several different airports.
America West began selling its packages online last June, and despite the fact that it only took bookings for half the year, the site contributed significantly to America West’s vacation sales. America West Vacations is seeing a large increase in its overall sales this year over last year. In addition to having a year of experience of selling online, it has also been one year since America West Vacations replaced what Richards called archaic technology with a brand new system (its technology partners are Sabre, Logibro and EDS). That means that it has ironed out what glitches there were and has begun to enjoy the economies of scale and efficiencies produced by its new system.
Richards described America West Vacations’ move into online cruise sales as a natural progression of its online business and also as a natural fit with its existing business.
“We’re 100% leisure oriented and this is one sector of the business we’re not in. I think it can be a very good revenue generator,” he said.
America West Vacations sells about 70% of its product direct to consumers and the rest to travel agencies. It has not broken down the proportion of its direct sales that come through its Web site, but 16% of its agency sales are over the Web. Agencies can book groups over the Web, and download brochures off the Web site. Both travel agencies and consumers do a lot of research on the Web site, so when agents call the America West call center, or consumers call the call center or travel agency, the research they have already completed online streamlines the sales process.