Hong Kong tour agency debuts Asia’s first real-time cruise booking platform

Goldjoy Travel, an outbound tour agency in Hong Kong, has launched a direct cruise online booking platform, in partnership with two of Genting Hong Kong cruise lines Dream Cruises and Crystal Cruises.

Touted as the first-of-its-kind solution in Asia, Direct Connect provides the agency’s customers with end-to-end online cruise booking services via its website goldjoy.com. The system has been designed using API technologies that enable 24×7 real-time cruise cabin pricing, availability and online reservation capability with instant confirmation.

The team at the 32-year-old agency took two years to develop the online cruise booking platform, in a bid to become the leading OTA for cruise bookings in Asia, said Fred Yip, Goldjoy’s executive director and son of the agency’s founder Freddy Yip.

Yip, who is also an engineer, said that globally over 70 per cent of cruise bookings are still being made through traditional travel agents and he believes the company is well-positioned to capture the shift in the growing consumer preference for an online booking alternative.

He explained: “Unlike the markets of North America and Europe which make up for 75 per cent of total cruise bookings globally, cruising is relatively new in Asia (including China), accounting for about 14 per cent of the global market share.” However, he added, the cruise market in Asia offers great potential, demonstrating double-digit growth annually post-Covid.

Yip added: “While air ticket commission has diminished, the profit margin for agents selling cruises remains significant. However, customer experience (when booking cruises) is not positive due to factors such as ever-fluctuating rates or making enquiries through phone calls which will require the agency to take time to revert.

“Therefore, our rationale behind this digital transformation is to address issues like non-transparent pricing structure and information as well as to tap the young market segment.”

Between 2019-2021, the cruise booking platform has completed integration with about six cruise liners offering more than 10,000 sailings, with another four due to come on board. It is estimated that the system will offer over 50,000 sailings by year-end as cruise lines begin to resume operations around the world.

Yip added that hard work lies ahead in growing the platform as international players are either not ready for the Asian market or prioritise other markets given Asia’s small presence in terms of market share.

He said: “For the next two years, we will only be focused on expanding the pie, not only in Hong Kong, but we also plan to make forays into Singapore and China’s Greater Bay Area. That’s why we have invested in R&D, technology and infrastructure to scale out to Asia-Pacific.”

Yip shared that the company is in the midst of creating a B2B version of the cruise booking platform in the form of smartphone apps for agents at SMEs as “it will enable them to do business anywhere and it’s more engaging than phone calls”.

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