Quantum of the Seas from Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCCL), launched last month from Southampton, UK breaks records with its sheer scale. BRENDAN SEERY, asked RCCL Regional Director Helen Beck some questions
Is the SA cruise market (international) growing? Are younger people getting into cruising? Where do South African customers prefer to go? What will be the “next big destination”?
Yes, cruising is growing in South Africa. Families are increasingly seeing a cruise as a great way for different age groups to come together and enjoy all the different activities on board ship. Our Oasis and Quantum of the Seas classes are drawing younger people while our Celebrity Cruise line draws the more discerning “dinkies” (double income, no kids) young couples. South Africans have always liked the Mediterranean, however Asia is becoming more popular because no visas are required. The Caribbean is still a desirable destination. Splendour of the Seas will be going to Dubai in 2015 and we anticipate great demand from South Africans for this region.
Is the global cruise market growing? And if so, why?
Yes, it is growing. Natural growth is due to the increase in the number of ships and thus capacity worldwide, but more important is the potential growth in revenues. Our biggest ships Allure and Oasis of the Seas have the capacity to provide tremendous facilities, yet the flow and technology on board gives each cruiser an individual experience.
RC is investing substantially in new ships, which seems to indicate confidence in the future of the sector. Is this correct?
Absolutely. The launch of Quantum of the Seas in October this year, and Anthem of the Seas (same class) in April 2015 plus a new Oasis of the Seas coming in 2016, bring our total to 25 ships. Two destinations not currently on the cruise sector’s map are Africa and India, which are huge potential opportunities for us. However, for ships to go to these destinations requires infrastructure, processing, and industry wide engagement with various Governments, port authorities and tourism bodies across both continents. One destination does not make a cruise.
Quantum is an ultra high-tech ship: is that the way cruising is going to attract a younger clientele? How do you preserve the traditional values and hallmarks of cruising in a digital era?
It is a balance. We need to be abreast of current trends in technology to future proof our industry and enhance our guest experience. Even with the technological advances, RCC has preserved some of our signature entertainment elements, such as our rock-climbing wall, flow rider (surfing experience), and self-service dining venues, even though we have added other restaurants. Our Gold Anchor service programme also ensures consistency in our service across all our ships.
Is cruising growing because of a general growth in tourism or is it at the expense of other sectors? My perception is that cruising is seen as not only cost-effective, but also low-stress and that people are switching their travel methods. Would this be correct?
Cruising offers provides a taste of different destinations and amazing value for money, however, we don’t believe it is growing at the expense of other offerings. There is room for all of us, and the tourism ecosystem everywhere benefits from cruising. The economic benefits of cruising are manifold, ranging from ship- building, crewing (job creation) foreign exchange influxes, as well as impacting airline, hotel, and taxi industries, port and tourism authorities.
What are the most popular cruises in the RC bouquet and where do you see the future market growth (in destination terms)?
As mentioned, we see global growth to Asia. Thanks to the depth of our sales and marketing presence in many countries, RCC is a leader in sourcing guests from all over the world. Our cruises attract a cosmopolitan mix of guests, and result in a lovely on-board atmosphere. We deliver a wider demographic mix than many other cruise lines, which helps destinations draw guests from developing markets and drives new land-based tourism initiatives.
Does RC have a lot of returning clients? What are some of the benefits your loyalty programs offer?
Cruising as a holiday category gets a high return rate. RCC has a high number of returning clients. We have loyalty programs across all three lines. Satisfaction levels are high and validate what we are saying. Word of mouth is huge – and goes a long way to selling the experience and cruising as a whole.