Seatrade Cruise Global: State of the Global Cruise Industry

Arnold Donald, Richard Fain, Frank del Rio and Pierfrancesco Vago spoke at the conference

Seatrade Cruise Global: State of the Global Cruise Industry
Left to right: Arnold Donald, Frank del Rio, Pierfrancesco Vago and Richard Fain at the State of the Global Cruise Industry session (Image: Seatrade UBM)

By Jon Ingleton |

The Seatrade Cruise Global 2017 conference programme was as strong as I can recall in recent years, with a stellar line-up of speakers discussing a range of topical and high-interest subjects. The only dilemma delegates faced is how to manage conference attendance alongside other event commitments. The one session that had no agenda conflicts was the State of the Global Cruise Industry session, where four cruise line leaders spoke to a full house.

It’s traditional for the conference proceedings to kick off with the World Cruise Tourism Summit (WTC) to tease you a little before the State of the Global Cruise Industry session. With Roger Blum, principal of Cruise and Port Advisors, moderating the opening WTC session and a strong line-up of panel experts, our journey into understanding how to create the perfect shore excursions combination was both passionate and informative.

“People want to do something different when they travel, they want new experiences,” said Blum in his opening remarks.

Bob Lipisto, president and CEO of SeaDream Yacht Club, agreed: “We absolutely want to enhance the voyage experience for our guests. We’re in the business of creating incredible memories that will last a lifetime.”

Here follows a series of extracts from presentations by cruise line chairmen and CEOs:

Arnold Donald, president and CEO of Carnival Corporation

Each one of our ten cruise line brands is highly differentiated and each one has a different sense of community spirit. We are constantly exploring more effective ways to emote those who haven’t cruised and to equip travel professionals with effective tools that clearly convey the character of each brand as prospective guests explore which cruise line to choose, which brand fits their particular cruise vacation demands.

We need those brand distinctions to be even more obvious, particularly for first time cruisers. Innovation is all about the guest. Buried behind the scenes and out of the consciousness of the guests is an entire guest experience ecosystem. This is all about exceeding guest expectations.

In China, we are partnering with a Chinese company to build ships that cater to the dreams of Chinese guests. We’ve been carefully studying what appeals to the Chinese guests and how we can highlight the Chinese spirit so family obviously, for example, is very much a part of Chinese culture on our new ship Majestic Princess.

Accelerating best practices in technology and safety all are guest experience enhancements.

To be truly game changing, even life changing, innovation must be fully integrated. Our goal for innovation is to touch the human spirit.

Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings
Itinerary planning

I love destinations. I’m the self-appointed head itinerary planner at Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings. I know of nothing else that influences profitability as much as destinations do. I also happen to love their diversity, their history, their quirks and I love piecing that together to make incredible and memorable itineraries for our guests.

One of the first questions I always get asked when I talk to someone about going on a cruise is ‘where are you going?’ Answering where is critical to every aspect of the success of a voyage and the ultimate success of a cruise line. The answer influences everything from demand, to price and the customer mix of a particular cruise. ‘Where?’ is truly critical, otherwise we would all be operating cruises to nowhere and the industry would not be where it is today. This is why itinerary planning is so important. So much so that to this day, I still prepare or review every itinerary for every ship before it goes on sale. I want to do everything possible to bring the best of our destinations to our guests.

Understanding the importance of itineraries and destinations from a guest’s perspective is critical. It is the overall most significant determinant of their purchase decision. It’s guests who ultimately determine what a cruise sells for and price, or yield, it is the most significant determinant of a cruise line’s profitability.

The third quarter of the year generates about half of the industry’s annual profits. It’s because it’s the high season for the two highest yielding destinations – Europe and Alaska.

Destinations are important, not just in determining consumer demand and cruise fare, but they are also critically influencing onboard revenue as well. By far, shore excursions are the number one driver of onboard revenue and that all has to do with the quality of the destination and its attractions.

Destinations become more or less attractive as a result of four major external factors: travel agents, by far the most important, who bring us the right guests on the right ships; port agents who take care of vessel in port; the destinations and shore excursion operators who deliver the destination experiences; and lastly social media, which is increasing as a major force creating awareness of destinations. As our industry matures over time, avid and experienced cruisers become destination and experience collectors – they evolve to be more discerning, they look for more variety and they look for something new each time they sail.

Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
Environment and safety
On environment and safety we don’t compete, we work together for the benefit of our industry.

We talk about these ships as ‘floating cities’ – to me this isn’t just a PR slogan or a cliché because it talks about the community that a cruise ship fosters. When you visit any great cities around the world you expect a few things – you expect a clean and healthy environment and you expect to be protected from harm. There’s really a social contract going on here and it’s one between the city itself and the residents of it. We in the cruise industry are no different – we feel exactly the same. We are committed to creating ethical, sustainable, safe and secure communities on board all of our ships.

We take a lot of innovative steps to protect the environment and to promote safety. We are fortunate to have really hard working employees who probably don’t get the recognition for what they do in this area.

The first step in any good process is to set ambitious goals. Our focus is always on continuous improvement, setting ever higher standards. We have the good fortune to be able to harvest the creativity and the collective ingenuity and imagination of all the people and together we can do some really great things.

Minimising our carbon footprint and using the resources available to us more effectively means that not only do we do the right thing, but we also save money and usually we provide our customers with a better experience. But we’re also protecting the oceans which is the greatest resource our industry has.

A number of years ago we adopted a policy that we would dispose of nothing overboard. Nothing is a powerful word. In environmental matters absolutes help. It’s a lot easier to achieve zero than nice sounding and ambiguous terms such as ‘as little as possible.’

Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises

€50 billion (US$53.9 billion) of new orders! How do we see the vision, how do we see how to grow, how to envisage a ship, a platform, an experience that will be built in a couple of years? How do we envisage what people will want in 30 years’ time? This is an amazing industry.

Innovation is at the heart of MSC, we really thrive to understand and appreciate what it is that we can do better.

[Over] the years the ship design has progressed – bigger ships, lower draft, balcony cabins, bigger public areas. In 1997 the biggest ship was 100,000gt, 20 years later, the biggest ship has more than doubled to accommodate twice the amount of passengers, more cabins with balconies, and of course the amenities have grown tremendously.

Never [before] in the history of cruise shipping [have] we had an orderbook that actually looked at the vision which had advanced bookings for ten years. This is amazing. This is a commitment, a commitment from the industry for long-term investments for the bright future that we have ahead.

71 of the 74 ships will be built in Europe. Europe has three main shipyards, those that have the technology to build such complex ships. 64% of these orders are for bigger ships. There are also 600 more European yards that build smaller sized ships like exploring, luxury and expedition. But we saw for the first time that orders have been placed with Asian yards. It’s a game changer.

We also understand that today we are still niche; we only have 3 or 4% penetration in the market, in some markets even less. We have a fantastic future.

With the State of the Global Cruise Industry, Seatrade Cruise Global continues to deliver the most popular and captivating conference session across the industry. Months of planning, outstanding delivery, thank you Seatrade!

Part 1: The exhibition
Part 2: Cruise line news
Part 4: The interviews

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