11 Questions with… Tony Archbold, Holland America Line & Seabourn

LATTE chats with Seabourn's local Senior Director of Sales & Marketing

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This week, LATTE chats with Tony Archbold, Senior Director of Sales and Marketing, Australia and New Zealand for Holland America Line and Seabourn.

Archbold joined the travel industry over 35 years ago as an airline marketing trainee with THAI Airways and Scandinavian Airlines. He has worked in the corporate sector with Flight Centre and Rosenbluth International, a role which saw Archbold relocate to the UK for a number of years, and was the National Sales Manager with Creative Holidays.

In 2011, Archbold was appointed Director of Sales Australia for Holland America Line & Seabourn, where he opened the dedicated operation in Australia alongside the existing Carnival Australia brands. In 2014, he took on oversight of New Zealand for both brands, and this year was promoted to Senior Director Sales & Marketing.

Tony, you have an extensive background in the travel industry, spanning over 35 years. You were very much an airline man in your early days, working for THAI, Scandinavian, Northwest and EVA. What was it that you loved about the airline sector?

I was 19 and just out of school from country NSW. Queensland was as far as I’d been and all of a sudden I was flying all over the world. In my early days it was before airline taxes existed so the world was there to be travelled very economically as an airline employee. Professionally, I learnt about the market, and as it was before a lot of today’s automation; you had to know how to calculate much of what is done by an algorithm today. I also had the chance with EVA to open an office up from scratch.

You took a break from the tourism industry in 1997 for 3 years, returning to a corporate role at Flight Centre in 1999. What did you do during that hiatus from the travel industry, and what lured you back?

I worked in a logistics consulting firm where I consulted for some major companies developing warehousing and distribution strategies for companies like Dick Smith, Wella and Australia Post. I learnt a lot about business and commercial drivers but in the end, moving freight was nowhere near as exciting as moving people, and so I took the chance to move my new commercial insights into corporate travel when an opportunity with what was then SBT Business Travel, which Flight Centre had just bought.

You broke a global sales record in 2001 at Flight Centre. Did you set out with that goal in mind, or did it just happen? And were there some particular large accounts that you were handling that drove that sale goal?

I always knew what the record was but breaking it wasn’t really the motivator. After about two years of really hard work a number of accounts which I’d been working on for some time were awarded simultaneously. I don’t actually recall the accounts as it’s now almost 18 years ago but I do recall the relief and excitement when for a while, almost weekly we won accounts.

How would you describe your time at Flight Centre?

I thoroughly enjoyed it. I met some amazingly talented people, many of whom I still see regularly at industry functions. It played a major part in my development.

After a long stint with wholesaler, Creative Holidays, you joined Holland America and Seabourn as DOS Australia. What was it that enticed you to join the cruise industry after all those years working with airlines, in corporate and wholesale?

Having been at Creative for almost eight years I was looking for a new challenge, although at the time I didn’t have cruising in mind. I saw an article announcing the role was open and so I clicked on the link to the advert. Eight interviews later I was appointed. As the process moved on and I researched more and more I could see that the quality of the two brands combined with the growth the industry in this market especially was undergoing made the position exceptionally appealing. Coupled with that was the very rare chance to open a new office from scratch and I made it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I was both ready for and really wanted.

What makes Seabourn so unique in the ultra-luxury space?

I believe there are many points that make Seabourn the finest ultra-luxury cruise line in the world. Here are a few: Firstly, it was Seabourn that really invented this category 30 years ago. An opportunity was seen by our founder and the chance was taken to deliver to our guests the personalised, small ship luxury experience that just wasn’t available at that time. Secondly, it’s the partnerships which we have built with leaders in other luxury lifestyle segments – people like Chef Thomas Keller, wellness guru Dr Andrew Weil and lyricist Sir Tim Rice, not to mention our unique relationship with UNESCO, for whom we are the official cruise line partner. Thirdly, our fleet is the youngest and most consistent fleet in the market, with a common design and an average age of only five years. Fourthly, and I’ll finish here, our onboard team are just exceptional in delivering a level of consistent service rarely found at sea or on land.

With the addition of Seabourn Ovation in May, the line now has a fleet of five ships. Is there scope for more vessels in the future, or does this number provide Seabourn with the opportunity and flexibility to operate an adequate number of diverse itineraries?

In the last two years Seabourn has nearly doubled our capacity and so we now offer more itineraries and more ports than at any time in our 30-year history. Of course, it’s a big world so there is always scope for more, and the announcement of our expedition ships indicates that we see opportunities to take the Seabourn experience into that segment of the market.

Earlier this year Seabourn confirmed a move into the expedition market with two vessels to be delivered in 2021 and 2022. Aside from the Arctic and Antarctic, where can we expect to see these vessels operate? Are itineraries from Australia and New Zealand to Antarctica under consideration? And what about the Kimberley region and Indonesia, which are also booming?

We are currently very busy working on those itineraries and, as with all our itineraries, the delivery of the very best experience for our guests will be our paramount goal. All the places you have mentioned are wonderful options, but we’ll just have to wait a little bit longer before we can reveal the first season’s plans, which should happen in early 2019.

Like your children, you’re not supposed to have a favourite. But surely one of Seabourn’s ships has a greater appeal to you than the other four in the fleet. Which vessel are you most fond of and why?

That’s as hard as asking about my children and I guess, like them, each appeals for different reasons. My first Seabourn cruise was on Odyssey, so she holds a special place. However, my last was on Ovation and she was simply stunning in every aspect. I didn’t know we were that good but she taught me not to put limits on your children!

Holland America Line will welcome Nieuw Statendam to its fleet next month. Can you tell us about the luxury experience and offering aboard this vessel? And when can we expect to see one of HAL’s Pinnacle-Class ships heading to Australia? And if not, what is preventing Koningsdam and Nieuw Statendam from heading down under?

Nieuw Statendam is going to be an exceptional ship. On her we will see the next installment of the Pinnacle Class ship with an evolution in the amazing artwork that we see currently on Koningsdam taken even further. We searched the world for unique and exceptionally talented artisans to decorate her and our guests will be amazed at the standard of artwork we have installed.

Our critically acclaimed Music Walk will see the addition of Rolling Stone Rock Room to the existing musical excellence of BB King Blues Club, Lincoln Center Stage and Billboard Onboard giving Holland America Line guests the best score to cruise by.

With the addition of two more leading chefs to our already renowned Culinary Council, the culinary offering on Nieuw Statendam will be taken again to another level. We are convinced that Holland America Line has the best culinary offering at sea.

As far as either ship coming to Australia, I’ll keep asking but until the berthing situation in Sydney is finalised we will have to be patient.

Our signature LATTE question: Tony, where is your favourite local coffee shop and what do you typically order?

Sorry to disappoint, but I don’t drink coffee!

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