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Monday, 08 April, 2013, 10 : 00 AM [IST]

‘India is on Royal Caribbean’s list of high-potential source markets’

Royal Caribbean International is set to deploy two of its largest ships in the Asian region with departures from Singapore. TravelBiz Monitor gets Gavin Smith, Regional Vice President, Asia Pacific, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., to talk about expansion plans, global trends, expectations from the Indian market, and steps for developing Cruise Tourism in the country
gavin_smith.jpgQ. What are your expectations from the Oasis III class ship to be inducted in 2016, and is this class of ships going to be the focus area of development in the near future?
A. It is difficult to provide any insight at this time with regard to Oasis III. However, it could be expected that the DNA of the earlier Oasis Class ships will be protected, and a host of new and innovative amenities will be added to further enhance guest experience.

Q. Which are the top emerging markets for Royal Caribbean International?
A.
Royal Caribbean International carries more than 3.5 million guests per year and the Indian cruise market is estimated at 100,000 guests - of which Royal Caribbean International is the dominant player. Royal Caribbean International has identified the greater Asia region as the most significant emerging market and has deployed two of the world’s largest cruise ships for the region - Voyager of the Seas and Mariner of the Seas. The vast majority of cruise itineraries for these ships are Singapore-based departures and departures from North Asia ex Beijing and Shanghai. For cruise enthusiasts, Mariner of the Seas, this year will halt in Goa (May 24) and Kochi (May 26) during a repositional voyage from Dubai to Singapore.

It is anticipated that the cruise season in Asia, with emphasis on departures from Singapore, will be of great interest to the Indian cruise market. This popular destination will offer affordable and port-intensive cruise holidays in South Asia and will enhance the profile of Royal Caribbean International in India.

royal_caribbean_cruises_1.jpgQ. How important is the Indian market and how do you compare its potential with other markets in the region?
A.
The Indian cruise market is believed to have enjoyed modest growth in recent years. It is certainly on Royal Caribbean’s list of high-potential source markets, and mid- to long-term growth is anticipated. The most significant impact on this growth will be a decision by any of the major cruise lines to home port a ship in India. This will create a market; however, it will depend on the provision of adequate facilities.

Q. In your opinion, which are the major trends likely to shape the cruising industry in three to five years?
A.
Royal Caribbean International will continue to build the world’s largest and most innovative cruise ships. With the launch on Oasis III, the first in class Quantum of the Seas and its sister Anthem of the Seas will be built. Guests can expect to experience additional amenities, entertainment options, dining experiences and world-class venues onboard in future. It is likely that the greater Asia region will emerge as an important source market for Royal Caribbean International in the next three to five years, with deployments in North and South Asia enjoying unprecedented support from consumers and trade. This will attract further investment in communication and trade support.

Q. How can India develop Cruise Tourism and attract cruise liners?
A.
The single biggest influence over the growth of the cruise market in India will be if a cruise ship is deployed locally from an Indian port. A locally-based cruise ship is a good substitute for expensive international air travel and exposes more families to the joys and wonders of cruising. In order for such a deployment to take place, local port infrastructure needs to be developed for the cruise industry to conduct its shore-side responsibilities efficiently within a low-cost dedicated facility. This commitment by the local government would send a signal to the cruise industry that India is open for business. The establishment of a dedicated facility does not have to be expensive or an architectural marvel. It is important that it is low-cost and functional. There are many ports around the world that have erected temporary facilities to attract the industry, and at an appropriate time have constructed permanent facilities, thus, achieving responsible growth in conjunction with the cruise industry.

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‘In past couple of years we have seen great traction from affinity & MICE segments from the Indian market’


Royal Caribbean International is nearing completion of the USD 300-million revitalisation of its fleet. Ratna Chadha, Chief Executive, TIRUN Travel Marketing, India Representative for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., talks to TravelBiz Monitor about the potential of the Indian market, trends in the cruise segment, company’s brands, offerings and plans for the Indian market this year


Q.  How has the Indian cruise market evolved over the years?
A. In the last two decades, the cruise market in India has evolved from a few hundreds to a little less than 100,000 guests, with the last couple of years witnessing modest growth. The cruise consumer has come a long way and is exploring newer itineraries, seeking more activities, entertainment options, choice of cuisine, etc.
 
Q. What strategies have been adopted to tap the Indian market?
A.
The early years were spent in creating awareness and educating consumers about an alternative concept of vacations and the value it adds. Today the focus is on differentiating one brand from another and tapping the right market. In the past few years, we have seen a great traction from affinity (same interest groups) and MICE segments. We have catered to a couple of full-ship charters and an onboard wedding in 2009. Our innovative ships are equipped to meet expectations, not only of individual travellers, but also these segments.
 
Q. How does Royal Caribbean International face competition in India?
A. Having been in this business for 20 years now, we at TIRUN Travel Marketing understand the Indian traveller and our product really well. Our endeavour to deliver trusted advice and maintain transparency with our distribution partners, coupled with a staff strength of 44 dedicated cruise counsellors spread across five offices in India, help us face competition head on. The added advantage we enjoy is that Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises, all of which form Royal Caribbean Cruise Limited, are unique product offerings and cater to different segments, giving us the ability to further enhance our guests’ expectations and offer even more value.

Royal Caribbean International, the largest cruise brand in the world, is known for its innovation and owns the largest cruise ships with something for everyone. This summer, our ships sailing in the Mediterranean have features such as DreamWorks, Chicago and Saturday Night Fever, entertainment options, etc., which set us apart. We are awaiting the arrival of Mariner of the Seas, the largest cruise ship to be based in Asia with two sailings from Singapore in June 2013, and from November 2013 to April 2014 with three-, four- and five-night itineraries.

The service and uniqueness of our products are fairly recognised as well. Royal Caribbean International has received various global accolades over the years, as well as in India, having been voted in 2012 for the second consecutive year as the ‘Favourite Cruise Line’ by the readers of Conde Nast Traveller’ India. Celebrity Cruises positions itself as a premium cruise brand. With its fleet of 11 ships, offering some of the best-rated spas and restaurants on sea, Celebrity has created a niche in the market. This year, the brand brings its recently acquired Celebrity Reflection in Europe, while continuing its flagship Alaska itineraries.

The third brand, Azamara Club Cruises, focuses on intimate experiences, offering exceptional services with a higher staff-to-guest ratio and exciting itineraries visiting an array of ports. Also, this year Azamara is offering complimentary ‘AzAmazing Evenings’, events on every voyage, beginning with the season in Europe, allowing guests to avail of the advantages of unique cultural experiences, and longer stays at each port.
   
royal_caribbean_cruises_2.jpgQ. What can we expect from Royal Caribbean this year?
A. This year, Royal Caribbean International nears the end of its USD 300-million fleet revitalisation, integrating latest innovations and highest guest-rated programmes to its fleet. The refurbished ships will offer a greater variety of onboard dining and entertainment options, staterooms, Wi-Fi, Royal Babies and Tots Nursery, digital way-finding systems, interactive flat-panel televisions, i-Pod docking stations, etc.

In relation to its deployment, the brand continues global operation of its 22 ships, including the world’s largest Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. This year, Royal Caribbean is focusing on Asia as it brings the largest ship, Mariner of the Seas, to be based in Asia, operating from Singapore. The brand will deploy nine ships in Europe in summer 2013, including three ships based in the UK port and some sailings featuring popular destinations such as the Mediterranean, Baltics and the Norwegian Fjords. Alaska will retain its popularity for the explorative traveller, and the Caribbean will continue to host year-round sailings of the Oasis class vessels.

Royal Caribbean recently sanctioned two new ships – Quantum of the Seas, set to debut in fall 2014, and Anthem of the Seas, which will be launched in spring 2015. They will be part of the Quantum class vessels and build upon Royal Caribbean’s legacy of revolutionary ship design and bold innovation.

Our ships are ‘Designed for WOW’ and 2013 brings various exciting amenities and entertainment options for the Indian traveller. Among these features is the Barbie Premium Experience, where the brand brings the signature pink style of Barbie to the high seas to be a part of cruise vacation.

The few other exciting factors to look forward to include Broadway musicals, including Chicago & Saturday Night Live; ice-shows; rock walls; mini golf courses; dining options; DreamWorks experiences and characters onboard; host of activities with the award-winning Adventure Ocean youth programme; continued fitness and wellness facilities; etc. Royal Caribbean International will continue to deliver world-class services as per its Gold and Anchor Service Programme.

 
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