On deck with MSC UK & Ireland MD – Antonio Paradiso

TD Guest Writer

Guest Writers are not employed, compensated or governed by TD, opinions and statements are from the specific writer directly

Ahead of this week’s World Travel Market, Cruise News was delighted to meet up with Antonio Paradiso, MSC’s managing director for UK and Ireland at their new state of the art offices.

Portraits MSC Cruises Team. Photo by Steve Dunlop steve@stevedunlop.com www.stevedunlop.com +447762084057

Tell me a bit about the history of MSC?

We have a pretty unique history, formed 300 years ago by the seafaring Aponte family in Sorrento, Italy. In 1970 Mr Gian Luigi Aponte founded the Mediterranean Shipping Company and since then MSC has grown to be world leader in container shipping – today operating over 485 ships.

In 1988, MSC Cruises was born. We are now the largest privately owned cruise company in the world with the most modern fleet at sea.

What would you see as your career highlights to date?

In 2009 I became commercial manager for Germany, Austria and Switzerland at MSCCruises. I contributed to the growth of the German market for MSC at a time when it was rising to become the biggest in Europe in term of cruise passengers, the second largest in the world.

In 2013 I became executive director for emerging markets overseeing over 32 countries, the most enriching experience of my life. It helped to expand my horizons, pushing me out of my comfort zone, challenging myself, meeting new cultures.

In January I was offered the opportunity to lead the UK and Ireland, one of biggest cruise markets on earth, with huge potential and promises for MSC. I’m really happy to take on this challenge. Not only can I return to my home country, as I was born in Brighton, I can also be part of another growth story and put my experience to work in expanding further our operations in the region.

What is your favourite ship and why?

I do love all of our ships, they are all, but the one I love the most is MSC Fantasia. It was my first official launch and I met Sophia Loren who is our godmother. With MSC Fantasia we introduced a new prototype, a bit of a game changer for MSC, it was just magic, there will always be a piece of my heart on that ship.

What is the most rewarding thing about your job?

I am lucky and I love my job to bits. It has been a professional and personal adventure since the beginning. I’ve had the opportunity to meet thousands of travel agents across the world and many of them have become friends. What can be more rewarding than this?

From a consumer perspective it goes without saying, I love putting a smile on people’s faces for a living. Every day we achieve this hard task and there is no better feeling in the world. But the objective is also to improve and challenge myself, so I welcome constructive criticism in order to further better our product.

How do you engage with the trade?

My idea of business is I want my trade partners to have confidence in us, fun and enjoy doing business with us. That’s my goal. So I have an honest and open relationship with our travel agents. To build that kind of relationship, you need to listen, understand and dialogue.

What are you doing to attract new customers?

What we’ve been doing in the past 2 or 3 years, changing experiences, recognising that different types of customers will have different needs. So we are trying to tailor their experiences for the variety of nationality and cultures we host on board. We have a fantastic product, with a strong offering for families and couples.
We offer five children’s clubs from 6 months to 18 years and we are the only cruise line to launch a partnership with Lego.

The ship has the first LEGO room for MSC
The ship has the first LEGO room for MSC

On board a range of our ships we offer the exclusive MSC Yacht Club, a five star, ship within a ship, for guests looking for exclusivity and privacy.

More exciting, we are very honoured to partner with Cirque du Soleil, offering exclusive shows in a purpose built, dedicated theatre on MSC Meraviglia. And our collaboration will be extended to MSC Meraviglia’s three sister ships.

Where do you see future growth?

For travellers, ships are now becoming a destination. The future is not only about building bigger ships but, but creating new experiences, combining F&B, with entertainment and best-in class services.

We are about to embark on one of the largest expansion programmes every witnessed in the cruise industry with the construction of eleven new ships by 2026, investing €9 billion. In 2017 we will launch two new ships, MSC Meraviglia (Italian for wonder) in June and MSC Seaside in December, two different prototypes, with lots of on board innovation to appeal to those travellers.

Richard Branson has announced that Virgin is to launch a cruise line, is this a threat to MSC and the industry?
Not at all, I honestly believe that for the cruise industry competition is beneficial, because we are still a very small industry. It stimulates creativity, makes you think outside of the box. So it’s good. Fresh blood – welcome on board!

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