Cu­nard cruiser mind­set shift

Travel Bulletin - - CRUISE REPORT -

Cu­nard is gear­ing it­self to­wards a greater in­ter­na­tional mar­ket, with in­creas­ing num­bers of Aus­tralian and Ja­panese pas­sen­gers bit­ing into the ever dom­i­nant UK mar­ket. In the past two years, the 176-year-old lux­ury cruise op­er­a­tor has wit­nessed a slide in the num­ber of Brits step­ping aboard Queen Mary 2, Queen Vic­to­ria and Queen El­iz­a­beth – part of a strat­egy to “recog­nise global cit­i­zen­ship,” says Cu­nard In­ter­na­tional Devel­op­ment Di­rec­tor David Rousham. Speak­ing aboard Queen Vic­to­ria while docked in Syd­ney at the end of Fe­bru­ary, the Lon­don-based ex­ec­u­tive said he’d been brought into the com­pany four years ago to drive in­ter­na­tional busi­ness for the brand. And the re­sults are start­ing to show. “At that stage, around 55% of our busi­ness was Brits. That’s now about 50%,” adding that he’s still got “a lit­tle bit more to go” in terms of wind­ing back the fig­ure. “Our whole goal is about a blend of the in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence. I want the best in­ter­na­tional blend and we feel there are mar­kets we can in­crease.” Book­ings out of this re­gion have steadily in­creased since 2012, with Aus­tralians now ac­count­ing for some 11% of all Cu­nard reser­va­tions (up from 7%), over­tak­ing Ger­many to be the cruise line’s third largest source, and sit­ting be­hind the United States in sec­ond. Aussies are in­creas­ingly keen to ex­pe­ri­ence the Cu­nard prod­uct on “loop cruises” – a shorter du­ra­tion round-trip voy­age from a hub such as Syd­ney – of­fered as part of Cu­nard’s World Cruise pro­gram. “Aus­tralians have been very strong in terms of sup­port­ing our world cruise over the 80 years we’ve been op­er­at­ing World Cruises. Dur­ing that pe­riod, the Aus­tralian mar­ket has al­ways sup­ported our world cruise. But I think there has been a mind­set shift in Aus­tralia be­cause of the ca­pac­ity that’s com­ing and home­port­ing out of Aus­tralia.”

Times are chang­ing for Cu­nard. Guy Dun­das in­ves­ti­gates how the com­pany is keep­ing ahead.

“That’s a re­ally im­por­tant change I’m see­ing, in that there is an ex­pec­ta­tion of shorter cruises and that is some­thing we can of­fer as part of a world cruise, in terms of coastal re­quire­ments.” On the 29 Fe­bru­ary 2016 voy­age of Queen Vic­to­ria from Syd­ney to Kan­ga­roo Is­land, there were 1,200 Aus­tralians on board the eight-day loop cruise. Rousham said he was hope­ful the ex­pe­ri­ence would prompt first time Cu­nard cus­tomers to book a fu­ture world cruise, Mediter­ranean, Euro­pean or transat­lantic sec­tor. This year, Cu­nard has seen a 15% yearon-year growth for the Mediter­ranean, due in part to a drop in the num­ber of Amer­i­cans who, ac­cord­ing to Rousham, have “switched off con­sid­er­a­tion” to the re­gion in favour of Alaska or the Caribbean, due to geopo­lit­i­cal is­sues in the East­ern Mediter­ranean. “The Aus­tralian is sail­ing for a slightly shorter pe­riod [in Europe]. We have seven-, nine-, 10-, 12-, 14 and 21-night cruises and we are see­ing more Aus­tralians cruising the shorter lengths this year.” Last year Cu­nard cel­e­brated its 175th an­niver­sary with seven spe­cific cel­e­bra­tory voy­ages in­clud­ing a transat­lantic replica cruise of the orig­i­nal Bri­tan­nia voy­age in July. Some 800 Aussies made the trip, a “phe­nom­e­nal” re­sult, Rousham said. What makes Cu­nard stand out from the pack in the lux­ury ocean-liner mar­ket is the propo­si­tion. Flag­ging “some big growth” in the small ship lux­ury sec­tor, Rousham said Cu­nard’s propo­si­tion is mak­ing a state­ment. “We are not small. We are big or large ship lux­ury – that’s where we po­si­tion our­selves. You can get all of the ben­e­fits of ul­tra lux­ury with Grills, but all the ben­e­fits of a big ship.” Other source mar­kets which have shown growth for Cu­nard in­clude Ja­pan where there are cur­rently around 5,000 book­ings an­nu­ally, and to a lesser ex­tent China. “China is some­thing we’re re­ally in­ter­ested in,” Rousham told trav­elbul­letin, but ad­mit­ted the re­gion presents chal­lenges. “Chi­nese cul­ture and Ja­panese cul­ture bring a cer­tain de­mand on ships in terms of ca­ter­ing and lan­guage. And that can be quite chal­leng­ing. “We want to make sure – and with­out sound­ing ar­ro­gant – it is an in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence or Cu­nard ex­pe­ri­ence, so if we change it or lo­calise for the sake of one par­tic­u­lar group of peo­ple it will alien­ate an­other. We want to make sure it’s as stan­dard as pos­si­ble.” “You’ll see a lot of other cruise lines say­ing they are build­ing a Chi­nese ship or a ship of a spe­cific mar­ket. As soon as we do that we think we are alien­at­ing oth­ers, and we don’t want that. We are step­ping slowly into the Asian mar­ket”. An­other chal­lenge Cu­nard is cur­rently fac­ing is yield on its Aus­tralian of­fer­ing. Un­favourable ex­change rates with the Aus­tralian dol­lar ver­sus the pound have seen a 20% slump in yield in 2016. “We’ve got a chal­lenge in Aus­tralia in terms of yields and in terms of how we com­mer­cially man­age our busi­ness. Clas­si­cally, for­eign ex­change rates and fluc­tu­a­tions over the course of a year does im­pact [Cu­nard] and that is some­thing that has changed con­sis­tently over the last two years. “Our view is what goes up, will go down,” Rousham added.

I think there has been a mind­set shift in Aus­tralia be­cause of the ca­pac­ity that’s com­ing and home­port­ing out of Aus­tralia’ David Rousam, In­ter­na­tional Devel­op­ment di­rec­tor, Cu­nard

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