Cruising sets sail towards younger clients: lessons for timeshare via Andrew Stuart – President & COO, Norwegian Cruise Line
If someone asked you about your perception of the cruise industry, certain thoughts might jump to mind, many of which are not particularly positive. These ideas might include substandard entertainment, tired interiors, uninspiring catering, and an aging demographic of guests on board. When Andrew Stuart, the President and Chief Operating Officer of Norwegian Cruise Line took the helm of the company in March 2015, this was exactly the problem he faced.
Almost all of the perceptions that people had about the cruise industry were true when Andrew took charge, so he set about changing this situation in order to attract a younger audience of upwardly mobile and ambitious Millennial travellers. In his new role within the company Andrew has been tasked with ensuring that Norwegian continues to produce industry leading financial results while bringing new ideas and ways of doing business that improves guest satisfaction and also attracts a new audience of guests.
In the following video Andrew speaks to Steve Clarke about what challenges faced Norwegian Cruise Line and how he helped the company successfully market itself to younger clients.
Steve: “We’re at the close of RDO Conference. It’s been a cracking day today with some really good speakers but the last speaker today was Andy Stewart from Norwegian Cruise Lines who is President and Chief Operating Officer. Great title, it’s all there. I was really intrigued with what you were saying, by a couple of things. Maybe the first bit was that, forgive me, but I had the vision of the cruise line of people being maybe the blue-rinse brigade, but you shattered that for me today talking about bringing Millennials onto cruises. Can you tell us a little about that?”
Andrew: “First i’m glad I shattered that image, that’s good because you’re absolutely right it’s not where it is today. We really have worked hard to attract a younger audience and I chatted a little bit today about Millennials. I think it’s really important and the industry hasn’t done enough for that segment. The Millennial is teaching every other generation about how to consume content, how to shop, how to learn, and so our view is if we can attract the Millennial, every other generation is gonna come with them.”
“So it may not be our core customer today but by getting them, and getting them excited, it brings everybody else in and so we think that’s really important. We’re working very hard to reach the Millennial, wherever they are which is in a very fragmented world. It’s very different from traditional content because the way they consume it is very different.”
Steve: “You’re reaching them through where? Through multi-channel, through social media, online, offline?”
Andrew: “All of the above. We reach them through a lot of online. Everything we do now is focused on mobile first and then onto the desktop screen, but mobile is super important. Social media is very important and is continuously evolving and we’re working really hard to engage them, to introduce them to the experience because today generally that generation is not excited about cruises so we’ve got to get them over that hurdle. We do it through the experience. Having an experience that really once they do it they love it, but we’ve got to get past the the perception that might have.”
Steve: “I guess a lot of that is the same, the perception becomes reality you know how that works, but the fact that you’re drawing on Millennials is probably something that the timeshare industry should be looking at. I know that people I’ve been speaking to often still seem to think that’s not their market and you’ve got a huge crossover between the timeshare industry and people trading some time to come and exchange that to be on board the ships.”
Andrew: “Absolutely, all the research I’ve looked at says that cruisers and vacation ownership are the same customers.”
Steve: “So they need to be taking a leaf out of your book which is going to be marketing and reaching out and engaging with the Millennials, not just who you see your target market of yesteryear.
Andrew: “I believe so, and when you look at the size of the Millennial market it has grown incredibly quickly. Some people say oh but Millennials they’re kids, you know on some mobile screen at home, they’re not purchasers. They are; they’re married, having children and they have very big spending power because they haven’t bought homes because they don’t want that commitment yet, so they’re spending that money on travel. I think it’s a huge opportunity for the vacation ownership market, the cruise business, and none of us have done enough yet to attract that win.”
Steve: “Andy thank you very much, you have a lot of great information, we appreciate it a lot.”
As explained by Andrew, Norwegian Cruise Line realised that it was missing out on a major new group of travellers who have very different demands to older generations, but also have significant spending power. Millennials often cite travel and experiences as more important aspects of life than purchasing products such as a new car or a house, and a large proportion aim to take holidays multiple times a year. Millennials also have high expectations and demands including top quality entertainment, diverse choices of food and drink, comfortable, stylish rooms and modern technology.
While often being dismissed as kids glued to their mobile phones and not involved in holiday purchases, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead Millennials are becoming one of the most important demographic groups in the economy and should definitely not be ignored by the travel industry, including timeshare resorts.
The results of the changes that Andrew has put in place at Norwegian have been massively successful for the company which has enjoyed phenomenal growth in recent years. Under Andrew’s command, Norwegian has lead the charge in shifting the perception of the cruise industry away from an older generation by focusing on a different mindset towards dining, investment in ships – which are more like floating resorts, offering top quality entertainment and unique experiences onboard, and communicating the fantastic value of cruising.
The average age of cruisers has dropped from 56 to 49, with 25% aged 30-39 and 30 % of cruise vacationers sailing with children. Traditionally those who enjoy cruises have also been the same demographic that own timeshare, so as Andrew suggests there are many lessons that the timeshare industry can learn from the cruise industry. It is vital for the timeshare industry to attract Millennials by focusing on offering unique experiences, top-quality service and great value for money.
Here at RDO we would like to once again thank Andrew and Steve for their excellent presentations at RDO7 and for appearing in this video.
To find out more about Steve, including how your organisation can book him for inspirational sales speeches, or staff training, visit his website: http://www.eurekaselling.co.uk/
He is also very active on social media so make sure to follow along for inspirational posts:
If you would like to discuss anything with RDO regarding this blog post or other relevant topics, then simply add the hashtag #RDO7 or #RDOdigital to your tweet. Alternatively search #RDO7 or #RDOdigital on Twitter to see what else we’ve been discussing and you can easily get involved in the conversation.
The RDO7 conference 2016 was sponsored by CLC World Resorts & Hotels, Diamond Resorts International, Interval International and RCI at the Platinum level, and Dial An Exchange, Generator Systems and Shawbrook Bank at the Gold level. We thank them for their support.