Cruise industry forges ahead as vacationers sail the high seas again

The cruise industry is looking optimistically forward — not backward — now that ships are once again carrying passengers around the world.

That was the message heard from cruise lines, resort companies and travel agencies during the Nov. 3 general session at CruiseWorld, Northstar Travel Group’s conference and trade show in Fort Lauderdale.

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The lunch was sponsored by Royal Caribbean Group and featured its three main cruise brands – Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises.

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Jason Liberty, President and CEO of Royal Caribbean Group, took the stage and agreed that his company was quite optimistic for the fourth quarter and for 2023. The company had just published better than expected third quarter results earlier. during the day. .

“I’ve practically dropped the iron curtain on the past,” he said in a conversation with Travel Weekly editor Arnie Weissmann. “We are back to normal; our business is back to normal. Of course, we would like a few more load factor points, but we cruised at 96% load factor in Q3 and will be in a similar position in Q4. I am very excited, as an organization and us as an industry, to focus our energy not on survival, but on providing the best vacation in the world.

Also speaking was Barbara Muckermann, chief commercial officer of Silversea Cruises, a surprise guest introduced by Katina Athanasiou, senior vice president of sales for Silversea.

Muckermann said for today’s luxury consumers, it’s more about experiences than buying a Hermès Birkin or Chanel handbag. “Don’t focus on the product, focus on the experiences,” she recommended, like a polar dip on a trip to Antarctica. Memories like that don’t fade.

Another session featured five executives who were asked to pitch their perfect pitch to different types of family clients. The “Pitch Perfect MultiGen Panel” was moderated by Nolan Flynn, Director of Marketing and Operations, LaMacchia Travel, and Brian Major, Editor of Digital/Caribbean Publications and Guides for TravelPulse.com and AGENTatHOME

For example, for a family who says “money is not an issue” – as others might be inclined to do for their first post-pandemic trip – Andrea Wright of Playa Hotels & Resorts, suggested the Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana all inclusive. It has a water park with slides and a lazy river, Camp Hyatt, 12 restaurants, an infinity pool bar, and a two-story Zen spa.

Marilyn Cairo of Karisma Hotels & Resorts suggested Nickelodeon Riviera Maya, which has a pineapple villa similar to the one SpongeBob SquarePants lives in, butlers, a water park, all ocean-view suites — some with private plunge pools on the balconies – and character meet-and-greet with characters SpongeBob SquarePants, PAW Patrol, Dora the Explorer and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Club Med’s Isabelle Bujold suggested one of their resorts in the French or Italian Alps, but also Club Med’s Resort Cefalù in Sicily, nestled on steep cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean and close to the beautiful village of Cefalù.

Raul Villagran of Sandos Hotels & Resorts recommended the Sandos Finisterra Los Cabos, which is near town and the marina and is also “front and center” of the famous rock arch formation at Land’s End.

And Francis Riley, representing Margaritaville at Sea, joked, “If money’s no object, charter the whole ship!”

Attendees also heard from Rob Borden, senior vice president of commercial and cruise at Uplift Inc., a travel-focused company that lets people buy now and pay later with monthly installments. In addition, Uplift takes care of the payment once the reservation has been made. From the travel agent’s perspective, “it’s paid for in full at the time of booking,” Borden said.

Uplift is available with select purchases through World Travel Holdings companies that sell direct to consumers and through travel advisors with Dream Vacations and CruiseOne.

Rosemarie Reed, senior vice president of marketing for World Travel Holdings, said the average order with Uplift was over $5,000 and about 10% higher on average.

“People dream bigger when they know they can afford it over time,” Reed said.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley discussed record bookings at the opening of sales for Icon of the Seas with Vicki Freed, Senior Vice President of Sales and Commercial Support and Services, for Royal Caribbean International.


CruiseWorld 2022 in Fort Lauderdale
Vicki Freed and Michael Bayley of Royal Caribbean International. (Photo by Theresa Norton)

“We’ve worked on this ship for five years, and for us it’s the culmination of our 50 years of trying to be the best,” he said. Record bookings “blew our expectations out the window”.

“Travel advisors are full partners with Royal Caribbean, and I don’t see that changing every time,” Bayley said.

Also highlighted was the Black Travel Advisory Board created by Northstar Travel Group in the summer of 2020, shortly after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Bob Sullivan, president of Northstar Travel Group, said Northstar wants to take positive steps to increase diversity in the travel industry and in its own business. According to its mission statement, the council is “dedicated to the equitable representation of minority people within the travel industry, with a drive to recruit more black speakers, black attendees, and to initiate new programs and initiatives that will make a positive difference in the travel industry.”


CruiseWorld 2022 in Fort Lauderdale
Some of the members of the Black Travel Advisory Board established by Northstar Travel Group in the summer of 2020. (Photo by Theresa Norton)

Five board members shared their thoughts, such as the need to see more people of color in cruise line marketing materials as well as in hiring. Board members present were Valerie Dorsey, owner of a Cruise Planners franchise; Stephen Scott, CEO and Founder of Travel Hub 365; Laurence Pinckney, CEO of Zenbiz Travel; Cory Wallace, National Account Manager for Celebrity Cruises; Denella Ri’chard, Executive Television Producer of “Traveling with Denella.”

The day also included TW Talks, light-hearted presentations with serious messages from Michelle Fee, CEO and Founder of Cruise Planners, and Jenn Lee, Vice President, Business Engagement and Support of Travel Planners International.


CruiseWorld 2022 in Fort Lauderdale
Presentation by Vicki Freed and Dondra Ritzenthaler on the maintenance and care of plants – and customers. (Photo by Theresa Norton)

The session ended with a fun presentation from Vicki Freed and Dondra Ritzenthaler, Senior Vice President, Sales and Business Support and Service, Celebrity Cruises.

Their message, inspired by gardening, was that counselors should take care of their clients just as plants should be watered and nurtured.

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