Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings President and CEO, Frank Del Rio, has told luxury travel advisors that the full impact of the coronavirus situation has yet to peak.
“Typically when we see an event that occurs, it takes the broad marketplace six to eight weeks from when the news cycle peaks for consumers to return to their behaviour,” he said this week, forecasting that the high point is still some way off.
Del Rio presides over NCLH’s three cruise brands: Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Oceania Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line. Collectively, the company has either cancelled or altered nearly 40 Asia sailings due to coronavirus – including five RSSC departures and 10 Oceania Cruises voyages – a strategy that he says will cost the umbrella business around US$150 million.
Speaking aboard the now-christened Seven Seas Splendor over the weekend, Del Rio confirmed coronavirus was “impacting our business” but assured the trade that as a business partner, the greater cruise company would maintain its support front-line sellers, “because I know you’re going to support us and we’re in this together”.
Del Rio said NCLH has already seen an uptick in bookings to Asia in the fourth quarter of 2020, while the booking window is stretching across the brands (echoing a similar comment to LATTE recently made by Steve Odell, Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ SVP and Managing Director for Asia Pacific).
“The good news is that cruisers are still cruising and they’re booking further out than ever before,” Del Rio said this week.
Del Rio told agents that the coronavirus “shall pass”, and while NCLH bookings had dipped from late January through to the second week of February, the company has witnessed an uptick in the third week of February.
“We’re still down from where we typically are, down from where we need to be to fill our ships, but at least that precipitous drop has stopped.”
“We’ll beat this together,” he told the travel advisor audience,”We’ll get through this.”
Trade partners “key” to Regent success
Del Rio’s adulation regarding the importance of trade was emphasised earlier this month by Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ President and CEO Jason Montague.
Speaking to media aboard Seven Seas Splendor on a preview cruise, Montague said travel advisors were crucial when it came to recommending the top-of-the-line cruise line, due to its price point.
“Our price points are higher than anyone else on a comparable basis,” Montague said. “When you take a Suite on a similar size on a Regent ship and you compare it to anything else in the cruise industry on a similar-sized suite basis, and you package everything in together, the price points are relatively similar. This is not just luxury players – this is premium, and even on the contemporary side.
“The problem is that because we are all-inclusive our price points are just higher,” the Regent boss said.
“It’s our partners that help educate the guests to understand the value proposition – that they are getting so much more value by coming on a ship that is purposely built for what they are looking for, rather than one of these big ships that is trying to be all things to all people.
“That’s the difference that we have and so our partners are a key component to deliver that message,” he said.
Lead image: Frank Del Rio aboard Seven Seas Explorer.