Arnold Donald, president and CEO of Carnival Corp., recently celebrated the growth of the cruise industry and stressed the importance of collaboration between cruise lines and travel professionals. Donald addressed some 1,000 attendees comprised of Cruises Inc., CruiseOne, and Dream Vacations members—one of the nation’s top travel agency networks—as part of World Travel Holdings 2016 National Conference aboard one of the newest ships in the cruise industry—Carnival Vista. According to Donald, “We are living in the golden age of cruising; these are the greatest days that our industry has ever seen. What you can do and where we can take you on our ships has advanced tremendously over the last 25 years.”
“Since a majority of our business comes from selling cruise vacations, it was important to us that we host the National Conference—themed BELIEVE—aboard a cruise ship, so that our network of home-based travel professional can experience first-hand the product that they are selling,” added Drew Daly, general manager of network engagement and performance for Cruises Inc., CruiseOne, and Dream Vacations.
Business of Leisure Travel
It’s all about the human connection experience. More than 25 million people cruise worldwide every year from Asia to Africa, notes Donald. “Our goal is to introduce even more people to cruising. Our competition is land-based vacations and not other cruise lines because there are still millions out there who have never cruised.” He points to the fact that Carnival has 1% of a 2% market share that books cruise cabins versus hotel rooms, so the strategic plan is to convert the other 98% to cruisers. We call them the new to cruise segment.”
Donald went on to say that travel agents must see themselves as matchmakers—finding the right cruise experience according to that customer’s needs, wants, and likes or dislikes. “Putting the right people on the right ship—looking at psychographics. People who don’t like community fun and want ultra-luxury would travel on Seabourn and not Carnival.” People want different things at different times—traveling with family for a vacation versus traveling with college friends for a getaway, he added.
Arnold, in jest, referenced how the popular ‘80s television show Love Boat did more for the cruise industry in terms of marketing. To that end, Carnival has created three new shows airing on NBC, ABC, and the CW. One such program, Vacation Creation, co-hosted by comedian Tommy Davidson, surprises people with a dream vacation.
Marrying Technology and Travel
When it comes to the outlook for the travel industry, Donald added, “We are ahead on occupancy. We are growing business. What matters is that the people aren’t afraid to travel and borders are open for travel. As long as that exists we are good.”
Donald will make a big tech announcement at CES. Using the correlation of the iPhone: “It’s your individual tool with your images, screen saver, protective case, and apps. People want the same thing in travel; they want a customized experience, which we are engineering with a whole lot of technology behind it.”