The real competitor to cruising: Land packages, self-drive holidays

Cruise leaders (L-R): Sean Treacy, managing director for Asia Pacific, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, Michael Goh, senior vice president for international sales, Genting Cruise Lines, William Harber, president for China & Asia Pacific, Hurtigruten, and Michael Ungerer, chief operations officer, Carnival Asia, with moderators Yeoh Siew Hoon, editorial director, Northstar Travel Media and Arnie Weissmann, editor-in-chief of Travel Weekly US.

Cruise leaders (L-R): Sean Treacy, managing director for Asia Pacific, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, Michael Goh, senior vice president for international sales, Genting Cruise Lines, William Harber, president for China & Asia Pacific, Hurtigruten, and Michael Ungerer, chief operations officer, Carnival Asia, with moderators Yeoh Siew Hoon, editorial director, Northstar Travel Media and Arnie Weissmann, editor-in-chief of Travel Weekly US.

Cruise leaders highlight the importance of travel agents and share initiatives that can help them sell the allure of cruising at CruiseWorld Asia 2017
By Monica Li / Lee Xin Hui / Travel Weekly Asia

Even as cruise lines attempt to outrace each other in the bid to tap on Asia’s massive cruising potential, the ultimate competitors they need to be aware of are not among themselves.
 
“It’s other experiences like land packages and self-driven tours [that are the real competitors] as 99.9…% of holidays are those,” said Sean Treacy, managing director for Asia Pacific, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, at a cruise leaders’ panel at CruiseWorld Asia held on November 30.
 
“We need to work with people gathered here today to sell the value proposition of cruising,” he stressed.
 
That being said, agents are not simply left to their own devices; cruise lines help make the job of selling cruises easier by ramping up varied products to target different customer segments – think family-friendly entertainment such as Royal Caribbean International’s Adventure Ocean youth programme, Costa Asia’s “Italy at Sea” offerings for Italian die-hards and Dream Cruises’ Johnnie Walker House at sea concept to entice well-heeled travellers.
 
Another critical aspect is tapping on technology to enhance the cruising experience for passengers. For instance, Hurtigruten recently launched a new underwater drone, which allows passengers to explore up to 150 meters beneath the sea – sans the need for diving experience. It has also invested in virtual reality technology to help agents and customers get a preview of the Antarctica excursion experience with the help of a VR headset, shared William Harber, president for China & Asia Pacific.
 
While Genting Cruise Lines’ senior vice president of international sales Michael Goh believes “technology is largely one of the marketing tools available with safety still a priority”, it has nevertheless invested in a virtual reality gaming experience for passengers onboard World Dream’s ESC Experience Lab.
 
To target the lucrative China market, Costa Asia partnered Chinese mobile application WeChat to facilitate hassle-free payments for Chinese travellers. 
 
Royal Caribbean is also investing heavily in technology as in the case of its Excalibur project that facilitates frictionless travel by allowing passengers to take a selfie before arriving at the ship and breezing through check-in simply through facial recognition.
 
As a last word of advice, Michael Ungerer, chief operations officer of Carnival Asia, had this to say to the audience largely made up of travel agents, “Sell a well-rounded portfolio that includes a contemporary cruise, luxury cruise, expedition cruise, and river cruise to match a varied client base.”