Big Interview: Royal boss challenges UK team to ‘take ownership’

Big Interview: Royal boss challenges UK team to ‘take ownership’

Royal Caribbean International’s Gavin Smith urges UK division to be ‘more aggressive’ in its approach. Hollie-Rae Merrick reports

Royal Caribbean International’s new boss of international markets believes its UK team needs to sell the line more aggressively to ensure it “gets a piece of the pie” and a new ship sailing from Southampton.

Gavin Smith suggested Royal’s business in the UK and continental Europe had “slipped back” as the line had focused on China and the Caribbean markets.

Smith, previously Royal’s vice‑president for Asia-Pacific, took up his new role in May, following the departure of Dominic Paul.

If successful in growing its UK sales, Royal is likely to base one of its upcoming new ships in Southampton, something president and chief executive Michael Bayley revealed could be on the cards during the launch of Harmony of the Seas last month.

However, Smith argued that to secure a new ship and to “get a piece of the pie”, the UK business needed to be “more aggressive”.

Royal’s senior vice-president international said the UK team needed to continue to generate high yields and strong returns, adding that this could result in the line allocating a “Quantum‑class deployment” for ex-UK sailings.

Smith said Royal’s UK business currently had a “caretaker mindset”, which involved launching a ship, hosting an inaugural sailing for the trade and a small number of introduction cruises. Instead, he said, it should have an “ownership mindset”, highlighting that it could fill newer and larger ships.

“We need to justify bringing the new product back to the UK and having a competitive product against our principal competitors in the UK, P&O Cruises,” he said.

“That in turn gives the trade confidence in our long-term intentions for the market. The UK very politely plays its role but I’d like to see it being more aggressive and taking advantage of the strong currency – reminding the corporation of the strength of the contribution the UK can make financially.”

North America and the Caribbean have performed well in the past 12 months as destinations, but Smith added: “We really need to be looking at reclaiming our market presence in the UK and Europe, particularly in the Mediterranean.

“As we’ve focused on the Caribbean and China – the Med and Europe have slipped back slightly in terms of deployment.”

In trading statements, Royal has attributed the struggle to increase bookings in Europe to US travellers not wanting to visit the continent following terror attacks in Brussels and Paris. But Smith also cited the “rise and recovery of Costa”, the ships on order with MSC Cruises, and the “aggressive marketing activity” of Aida and Tui Cruises.

In a bid to tackle the issue, Royal is looking to coordinate the efforts of each of its European divisions to grow the brand and those of sister lines Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises.

Parent Royal Caribbean Cruises is recruiting a manager for continental Europe. The role will help “make sure Europe can stand up to its potential”, Smith said, and would be similar to that introduced by Norwegian Cruise Line which recruited Christian Boell in June last year as managing director for Europe.

Smith added: “We are almost competing within each of the markets in Europe. But really we need to be aggregating our investment in the continent to maximise our lift into key ports – mainly Barcelona and Rome.”

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