The Middle East cruise market is nascent but has huge growth potential, according to Eamonn Ferrin, Vice President & Managing Director, UK, Ireland, Middle East & Africa for Norwegian Cruise Line.
“The population is younger on average and it’s a wealthy market,” he told TTN in a recent interview, echoing comments made to Cruise Arabia & Africa by the CEO. “These factors are very strong indicators that the cruise market should really take off in the Middle East, growing exponentially over the next few years.”
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Norwegian Cruise Line has big plans to leverage this growth, starting with plans to hire a business development manager for the Middle East to create activity with as many agents as possible, while providing the necessary training and support where needed.
“We need to open up distribution, in conjunction with our travel partners because there’s only so many people talking about cruising today,” says Nick Wilkinson, Regional Vice President of Business Development for South Africa and the Middle East.
“The strategy is to create as much noise with direct agreements to as many travel partners as possible,” he adds.
At the same time, Norwegian Cruise Line plans to increase its investment in marketing and training to “get our brand name and our message across”.
These plans will all be put into practice over the coming year, during the first half of which 12 Norwegian Cruise Line ships will cruise from regional ports, including Norwegian Spirit and Norwegian Jade from Dubai in 2019 and 2020.
Both ships will visit Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Aqaba, Kuwait and Bahrain on their respective cruises.
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“While the ship visits to the Middle East ports are somewhat fortuitous, I think they give us a great opportunity to not just familiarise the trade with our products but welcome the actual consumer on board our vessels as well,” says Wilkinson.
Norwegian Jade and Norwegian Spirit will also be visiting the region fresh from a major refurbishment as part of the cruise line’s Edge fleet revitalization program.
“[What] we want to do is to increase the overall demand of cruising and grow our business,” says Wilkinson.
Norwegian recognizes that it’s going to take time though. “At a macro level, it is sometimes hard to get people to try a cruise if they have never taken one before but our statistics prove that once they have done it, they become repeat customers. They just love the product and keep coming back,” says Ferrin.
“We believe that today less than 1 per cent of Middle Eastern travellers take a cruise every year, which compares to circa 5 to 6 per cent of US travellers and about 2 per cent of European travellers,” he adds.
Once those in the Middle East try the Norwegian Cruise Line product though, they are bound to love it, according to Ferrin. “Our brand DNA is freestyle cruising – the freedom to choose, for instance between 27 different dining options on the Norwegian Bliss, and the Norwegian Encore,” he says.
“The freedom to dress as you like, eat when you want and who you want to eat with. The freedom to choose between many entertainment options, some of which, by the way, could set you back by $150 on Broadway or West End.”
Categories: Middle East Cruise News
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