ShoreTrips, the cruise excursion company led by husband-and-wife team Barry and Julie Karp, will mark its 10th anniversary in 2012 by adding tours in Australia and Asia and entering the Dubai market.
The Glendale, Wis.-based company is augmenting its Asia and Australia offerings as cruise lines increase capacity in both regions. Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line and Princess Cruises will expand their sailings in the South Pacific next winter, and Royal Caribbean International and Costa Cruises will deploy bigger ships in China and other Asia markets next year.
Regarding the company's Dubai plans, "You have to sit down with the locals and find the best people to work with," according to ShoreTrips President Julie Karp.
ShoreTrips also is rolling out a series of shared-van guided tours in several European cities. The Karps said they expect them to be big sellers in 2012, the first full season they will be offered.
The company had previously sold private, guided car tours, but agent feedback suggested the private excursions were too expensive, said Barry Karp.
"Agents told us that the biggest problem selling private tours in the Mediterranean and in the Baltics was the cost," he said. "They ranged from about $800 to $1,200 a day.
"So we went to our operators and drivers and asked them to put together van trips at special prices, where two people could buy seats in the van and have a near-private experience." Each van carries eight people.
Julie Karp said that the shared-van tours are geared toward first-time visitors.
"They hit all the sights you'd want to see on a first visit," she said.
Pricing varies based on the tour. The St. Petersburg in One Day excursion costs $211 per person for a 10.5-hour trip, for example. A Paris tour, featuring lunch at the Eiffel Tower, runs $199 per person for a two-hour excursion.
The Karps, former travel agents who owned their own agency until 2001, work primarily through the retail community but will accept consumer bookings. Commission is 10%.
ShoreTrips also will upgrade its website, www.shoretrips.com, early next year, with new graphics on the home page, improved automation for group bookings and more options for agents.
"Right now the way it works is that agents will provide us with their clients' contact information, usually an email address," Barry Karp said. "Then we send an email, saying that their agent suggest we contact them to offer excursion bookings."
The Karps, who "don't like to step on agents' toes," only contact the client that one time. But with the website upgrade, agents can "opt in" to enable ShoreTrips to contact their client more than once.
"For example, if we notice that an agency client booked one excursion but has two or three more port calls on their itinerary, we'll be able -- with the agent's permission -- to email them again and remind them there are more options for those other ports," Barry Karp said.
These and other pro-agent upgrades help "to show our commitment to the agent community," he said.
For cruise news and updates, follow Donna Tunney on Twitter @dttravelweekly.