Travel agents have been “critical” in rebuilding the brand perception of the Carnival Corporation in the last year, its president and CEO Arnold Donald has said.
Speaking to media on a conference call this afternoon, Donald said its increased communication with agents is “yielding good results” and has been crucial in boosting brand reputation in what has been an up and down few years for the cruise company.
“As a corporation we went out to agents in 2013 and they have been critical to our success. We are committed to agent relations and giving them the tools to be successful,” said Donald. “The key is to listen and understand so they can grow their business, especially in the new-to-cruise market. There is a great challenge for the industry to make sure new cruisers chose the right ship [and travel agents are in a great position to advise which].”
With Regal Princess and Costa Diadema joining the group this year its ship count will rise to 103, with Donald now keen to align its 10 brands to help streamline operating costs and management.
Carnival Corporation’s leadership team was aligned back in November to kick off the process, with 2014 the year when the brands start to work together more through costs, market research and contracting.
This combined approach will also help travel agents choose which brand and ship is right for customers.
“In 2014 we will look into how we can work together and leverage the scale that we have, through more cooperation, collaboration and communication,” Donald explained. “Our 10 brands will continue to operate independently but we have an out-going expenditure of US$6 billion that does not include people or fuel, so there has been a missed opportunity to not streamline this.”
Donald hinted in the future there could be cross-brand loyalty schemes across the corporation but otherwise the brands will continue to operate as usual, and separately.
“Our brands are really unique and there is not much overlap on the type of customer that travels on each, for example a typical Seabourn passenger would not travel on a Carnival Cruises ship,” added Donald.
Carnival Corporation’s lows in recent years have included the Costa Concordia incident and Carnival Triumph issues, with highs including the launch of Royal Princess and celebrations around Cunard and P&O Cruises.
Carnival Corporation’s brands are Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa Cruises, Cunard, Holland America Line, P&O Cruises (UK and Australia), Princess Cruises, Seabourn, AIDA Cruises and Iberocruceros.