Azamara chief executive Larry Pimentel discusses the future of the brand and industry at a Travel Weekly executive dinner. Harry Kemble reports
The boss of Azamara Club Cruises believes the best way to combat overtourism in Europe is for large cruise lines to acquire their own private islands.
Larry Pimentel said brands should ease pressure at popular ports of call by buying islands elsewhere and building the necessary infrastructure.
In May 2019, Royal Caribbean will launch its first private island in its Perfect Day collection – CocoCay in the Bahamas.
Norwegian Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line and Princess Cruises all have exclusive spaces in the Caribbean and the Bahamas solely for their passengers.
‘Ships within ships’
When asked about the issue of overtourism Pimentel said: “It is a question of great concern. I think you are will find many of the bigger cruise lines buying their own islands and facilities around the world.”
He highlighted how private islands eliminated geo-political and immigration issues.
Pimentel said lines would build the port facilities at the private island, but could also have “ships within ships”.
“Day ships” could be dispatched from 6,000-passenger vessels to explore hard-to-reach islands, for example, Pimentel said.
He added: “I would be shocked if smarter shipbuilders had not thought about it. This is me conceptualising, but it is not so far-fetched.
“Don’t think of today’s [ships] necessarily as the [ships] of the future. Small ships would fit in big ships.”
Pimentel hinted that the private-island concept could come to the Greek islands in the future.
“Perfect Day will be a fantastic place for people with families,” he said. “It will be a safe place to do a lot of things. There are a lot of places for sale in the Greek islands.”
More cruise line-owned private islands would enable smaller brands to continue to call at purportedly overcrowded ports, such as Venice, Corfu and Dubrovnik, Pimentel said.
“We will see a lot of sensitivity from the cruise lines thinking why should they spoil a good thing?”
Follow our lead
Pimentel admitted he was so proud of Azamara’s offering he urged competitors to try to match it.
Next month, Azamara will launch its third ship, Azamara Pursuit, which it bought from P&O Cruises.
The revamped vessel will allow the line to visit 80 countries and 260 ports this year. In 2019, Azamara’s expanded fleet will call at 40 maiden ports.
“I have told our competitors they should copy and follow us,” he said. “Our ideas are solid. I think it is an exciting time for the brand.
“People can follow our deployment and copy what we do but they can’t copy our DNA.”
Virgin Voyages has three ships on order with the first to be delivered in 2020. Asked what effect Virgin Voyages will have on the industry, Pimentel said: “At the end of the day, Virgin don’t have a lot of capacity.
“Sometimes we give too much credit to it because it is interesting, new and different. It is not going to be meaningful based on its current order; it is too small.”
Pimentel called on other companies to build new hardware.
“I hope others jump in,” he said. “I hope Bulgari [luxury goods company] jumps in. Maybe cruising can become more mainstream. At the moment, it is a small piece of the pie.”
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