Thursday, July 31, 2014

Cruising Into Better Waters?

After multiple years of absolutely dismal and arguable disastrous international consumer PR, the cruise industry may be bouncing back. Royal Caribbean, for example has raised income expectations for the 2014 fiscal year by more than $3 per share. Since then, RC’s shares have jumped more than 8 percent, and Ronn Torossian says, from a PR perspective, that news could be good for the entire industry.

Not too long ago, some very loud voices were foretelling the imminent demise of the entire cruise industry. Sales were lagging, rooms were going empty, and ship after ship was meeting with logistical or medical disaster. But, the industry weathered the PR nightmare and seems to have come out ahead. There is even talk that the drastically reduced pricing structures that lured cruisers back onto the boats will begin disappearing by the winter cruise season and be back to “regular” levels by spring 2015.

Branching out has helped ease the blow of lagging Caribbean cruise sales, and the industry’s big players, like Royal Caribbean, are actually seeing respectable gains in Europe and Asia. Because so many of the cruisers in this market are first-timers, particularly in Asia, both the pricing and PR approach are different. Cruise lines can offer Asian and European cruise passengers top rates without having to oversell or apologize first.

Royal Caribbean doubled down in this trend by announcing that it would be moving its newest vessel, “Quantum of the Seas,” to Shanghai in May 2015. The announcement shocked many in the industry, but it served two valuable Public Relations purposes. First, the move signaled to investors that RC was interested in expansion, looking ahead instead of looking back. The emerging economies of Asia are certainly ripe for what have been, until now, typically western luxuries. And second, the move put attention on new waters and new opportunities, and off the string of difficulties the cruise industry has faced in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. Proving once again that, it may not be the most sophisticated PR move, but “hey, look over there!” still works.

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