New Norwegian Cruise Line boss Andy Stuart says the operator will target expansion of its international business following his appointment last week.
In his first UK trade media interview the Englishman, who has been at Norwegian for 26 years, said the business has a “great foundation” having made “tremendous progress” over the last few years.
Last Wednesday Stuart was named chief operating officer and president of Norwegian taking over from Drew Madsen who had been in the role for just six months. He was appointed by former Norwegian boss Kevin Sheehan before the merger of Norwegian and upmarket operators Regent Seven Seas and Oceania Cruises, now headed by Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive of new parent company Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.
Stuart said: “To bring two companies and three brands together clearly causes some change as you work through the organisational questions.
“We are now in a solid position where Frank has clearly communicated what his team is across the three brands. You will always have change in circumstances like that. Now we are in a position to take the company forward.”
Stuart said the chief operating officer role at Norwegian was different to the one Madsen had been originally hired to do.
Asked about his priorities in the top job, Stuart said the launch of Norwegian Escape later this year was top of the agenda. “I’m very enthusiastic to bring out Escape and continue the tradition of innovation in the company,” Stuart said.
Norwegian believes there is significant scope to grow its international business outside of its North American home. Currently just 15% of its business is international.
Stuart said he thought there was still significant growth potential in the UK, as well as continental Europe but that Latin America – Norwegian has just opened an office in Brazil – Australia and Southeast Asia will also be targeted.
Although Norwegian is poised to “spend some time” reviewing ship deployment, Stuart said there are no specific plans to return to basing a ship in the UK.
“A large part of my role is going to be driving demand in to this company. One key element of that, and Frank has talked about this, is to make sure we do a great job on our international business. We believe there is significant opportunity to expand the international share of our overall business.”
Stuart said there was scope for innovation in trade sales to ensure cruise is appealing to next generation Millennials who are comfortable using the Internet and, increasingly, mobile devices to search for, research and buy holidays.
“Consumers want to be online – they are shopping online,” Stuart added. “It’s vital that the presentation of the product we are putting in front of consumers is exciting and evolving because we do have to attract new people in to cruise.
“There is huge value in travel agents reaching into communities we could never reach and neither could the big online players to generate that interest, get people to discover cruise, love it and keep coming back.”
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