Royal sales chief: ‘This is the UK market’s moment’

Royal Caribbean International is “relying more heavily” on the UK and other European source markets due to low flight capacity, according to the line’s new international sales chief.

Bert Hernandez, senior vice-president of international sales, admitted Americans currently appeared to be reluctant to travel to Europe, adding cruise fare pricing was currently “very close” to 2019 levels.

In his new role, Hernandez oversees a string of international markets – including the UK, Ireland, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and China. He recently returned to the line’s Miami office after leading operations in China for five years.

Speaking during a pre-recorded interview, played to Clia Conference delegates last week, Hernandez said: “We’re relying more heavily on the European sourcing model [and] the UK model.”

He went on to say demand was “improving very rapidly”, adding that the line felt “comfortable” about the current sales picture.

“Our global footprint really allows us to pivot when, when necessary,” he said. “This is a moment in which the UK market, the Spanish market, the European market are going to play a bigger role in Europe this summer.”

He confirmed the line had seen “a series of record-breaking weeks” in terms of bookings, adding: “Every week is getting better”.

“We were obviously coming from a different position where we didn’t have the volume that we would normally have at this time of the year,” he explained.

“So, we were behind from that perspective, but we’re definitely making up ground.”

Hernandez (pictured) said there was an opportunity to increase sales as some “friction points” – such as Covid testing – were removed.

Asked about basing a second ship in the UK in the future, Hernandez said it was “not unreasonable” to expect ex-UK capacity to increase “in 2024 and beyond” and suggested future deployment could be confirmed as early as autumn this year.

He added that booking volumes dictated where the line’s new vessels – such as Wonder of the Seas, currently based in Barcelona for the summer season – go.

“As the markets develop, we look at where the opportunities are and that’s where the [new] hardware goes,” he added.

Royal Caribbean is increasing capacity at Perfect Day at CocoCay in the Bahamas with an adults-only beach area. The line’s president Michael Bayley has said the Hideaway Beach area would boost capacity by 3,000 guests.

Hernandez said identifying new private destinations was “difficult” but hinted the Perfect Day portfolio could be expanded in the near future possibly with a new site in Europe.

“We think there’s an opportunity, particularly for the European market and for the UK market,” he said. “Watch this space.”

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