ROYAL Caribbean International is forecasting a slowdown in the rate of UK passenger growth to 15% in 1999 following increased competition in the cruising market.
Sales, marketing and operations director Pete Williams claimed new ship capacity in the market and aggressive pricing in the Mediterranean would stifle the dramatic growth the company had experienced in the last two years. This has seen business rise 30% year-on-year.
He also said the war in Kosovo had some impact on bookings, although Royal Caribbean had not had any ships in the affected region at the time.
"There was a general depression in the holiday market caused by Kosovo," he said.
"Luckily the war was short-lived. It was nowhere near as devastating as the Gulf War."
Williams stressed that Royal Caribbean's 15% growth rate would still make 1999 a record year for UK bookings.
He also claimed that the cruiseline's other brand, Celebrity Cruises, was heading for growth of 60% this year.
Celebrity underwent a huge transition in 1998, following its purchase by Royal Caribbean, Williams explained.
He claimed the television documentary series on Celebrity, The Cruise, which had shown the company in an adverse light, had hit bookings last year.
"That definitely damaged our profile within the trade," admitted Williams.
Meanwhile, Royal Carib-bean has started offering customers from the Midlands a free coach transfer to Heathrow.
The service is operated by Flightlink, which offers 11 daily departures between the Midlands and Heathrow. Williams said the added-value deal was being run on a trial basis for a couple of months and would be extended if it proved popular.
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