Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain has revealed the company – owner of Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Silversea, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and TUI Cruises – is evaluating new ways to speed up refunds back to guests’ pockets.
In a ‘Global Cruise Report‘ with acclaimed US reporter, Peter Greenberg, Fain admitted that after the pandemic struck refund processes initially struggled to keep pace with demand.
Greenberg said the number one complaint among cruise passengers impacted by the pandemic was their inability to get their money back. In response, Fain said: “We’ve gone from a system where we were giving refunds in the single digits of few refunds, and maybe hundreds of refunds, to where we were literally giving millions of refunds. Not millions of dollars, but millions of individuals.
“We were overwhelmed and you know what happens…we got behind, and we got behind more. So that was a real problem for us. But we got the refunds out to the people.”
Now, however, the refund processing window has been trimmed from three months to one, and the Group is working to reduce that turnaround even further, Fain said.
“In the beginning we were aiming for 90 days, then 30 days, now we’re looking for even shorter.”
“We hope never again to have to deal with such massive numbers but we are looking to find ways to automate it so that if we do have to deal with it again, we’re in a better position to do so.”
Fain also told Greenberg how crucial the travel advisor fraternity was for the Group, which also saw loans provided to travel agency partners.
“The travel advisors have been key to our success as a company and as an industry for 50 years,” Fain said.
“It’s a huge part of our business model. We needed them to survive not only because it’s the right thing to do to thank them for what they’ve done for so long, but we need them to be successful as we’re going forward.”
During the interview, Fain also spoke about the Healthy Sail Panel that was developed in partnership with rival cruise company, Norwegian Cruise Line Holding, as well as dealing with COVID cases onboard ships; the term “floating Petrie dishes” used in mainstream media; and how the pandemic lead to the evolution of new ports and cruise itineraries being developed.
Fain also confirmed the cruise buffet is likely here to stay.
“The buffet is now being served to you instead of you picking up the tongs, and I suspect that will be a permanent feature cause independent of the health reasons it’s just better,” he said.
View the full interview here.