Royal Caribbean targets region as main market

Rosemary McNulty-Sharpe of leading cruise operator Royal Caribbean, spoke to TTN about the industry and its prospects.
Royal Caribbean's megaship The Legend of the Seas.

Q. How important is the role of cruise tourism in the overall tourist trade?

A. Cruise tourism can play a very significant role in the travel agent trade offering oceans of opportunities for premium earnings not just because the Arab Traveller cruise profile is mainly a premium one but also because agents are compensated on the full package sold (full board).

Travel agents also have instant opportunities to sell cruise pre and post hotels, flights and tours. Cruising is renowned for having the highest customer satisfaction rate that results in a very healthy repeat cruise ratio, maintaining a customer!

Cruising customers also experience the opportunity to window shop several destinations from the comfort of their floating hotel and any destinations that they are taken with will go on their list of land vacations for their next holiday plan! Whilst the repeat cruise ratio is very healthy it is not necessarily year on year or at every given vacation time.

Therefore, the in-between year(s)/vacation times will see cruise customers return to a port of call for a land vacation.

Q. A brief overview of Royal Caribbean Cruises, it's origins and growth.

A. In 1969, three prominent Norwegian shipping entities joined forces with a plan to design and construct a ship custom-built specifically for cruising. The first ship, Song Of Norway, embarked on its maiden voyage on November 7, 1970. With its success realised, Song Of Norway was soon joined by a fleet of ships. Today, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. is now a global cruise vacation company that operates of 25 ships in service and three under construction or on firm order. Royal Caribbean cruises offers limited visits over 160 destinations, including Europe and the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and Alaska, Australasia and the South Pacific.

Q. Has the profile of cruise holidays changed?

Our experience in selling Royal Caribbean has not seen any solid changes in the customer profile. Our consistent profile continues to be 70% Arab travellers, 55% families and 30% honeymooners.

Q. Do you get a younger crowd these days?

A. The industry reports that cruisers are getting younger. In 1986, the average age for cruisers was 56. CLIA's (Cruise Line International Association) 2000 Market Profile Study found the average age for those who have cruised in the past five years was 50, while the average age of cruise prospects is 43. Our experience in booking cruise sales from this region is that 75% of our passengers are 40 years and under.

Q. How do you see the growth of cruise tourism in the future, which is the biggest growth area?

A. Royal Caribbean is seeing and will continue to see Mediterranean /Europe as the biggest growth demand for travellers from this region.