French cruise line Ponant has joined the Association of Touring and Adventure Suppliers (Atas) to build partnerships with UK travel agents and highlight its eco-friendly initiatives.
Stephen Winter (pictured), international sales director, said: “Our goal is to build strong partnerships with the UK trade, who are absolutely vital to us.
“We are thrilled to join Atas, which we believe is an excellent platform for us to engage with valued travel agents who will have opportunity to learn more about our unique tropical and polar expeditions, as well our partnership with National Geographic Expeditions.”
Ponant has a fleet of 13 ships which offer cruises to destinations in Antarctica, the Arctic, southeast Asia, Indian Ocean and Mediterranean.
Winter said the UK market has seen a “very strong start” to the year with increased revenue figures month-on-month compared to 2019, with passenger numbers also up compared to 2019.
“Trade bookings have also increased in diversity, showing a rising awareness among the trade, especially among high-end and luxury travel agents,” he said.
“Another very good indicator of recovery and increased business confidence is the rise in MICE [meetings, incentives, conference and events] bookings – from both charters and groups.”
He added: “An increase in passenger numbers by almost 25% in 2022 compared to 2019 via the trade for the EMEA region truly supports our ambitious growth targets.
“Our current volumes provide a glimpse of a very robust sales dynamic supported with a strong level of investment in marketing and communications, especially in the UK and Ireland.”
Winter described the UK market as “extremely important”, commenting: “Ponant’s dedication and involvement with the various trade associations demonstrates our commitment to the market while reaffirming their place on the global stage.
“Ponant also works with partners such as the Smithsonian and National Geographic Expeditions to boost our adventure offer, with a particular focus on edutainment.”
To capitalise on the post-Covid recovery period, Ponant has a Facebook page for UK travel agents; an agent portal called Ponant Pro; and a YouTube channel with clips featuring ships and destinations.
A programme of 16 ship visits is running from April to September in cities such as London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dover, Dublin and Belfast, enabling 400 agents to see vessels in person – and in September, several agents will cruise on Le Champlain from Edinburgh to Bergen.
Winter said Atas also fits Ponant’s focus on the growing adventure travel sector, as more customers are enquiring about this type of experience – as well as sustainable travel.
“The fleet is fitted with the latest technology to reduce carbon emissions and Ponant is officially the first cruise company in the world to abandon the use of heavy fuel oil, as of January 1, 2019,” he said.
“We feel to be in the perfect position, as we offer smaller-ship cruising, to give more of an intimate and smaller-group experience, being able to dock at much smaller ports of call.
“We offer adventures with National Geographic Expeditions, where guests will have access to a National Geographic photographer, as well as an expert offering a global perspective linking the voyage to the human journey, the changing planet and wildlife, and how it is affected by us all.
“Guests are also offered a choice to embark on our Ponant Smithsonian Voyages, the travel programme of the Smithsonian Institution.”
Le Commandant Charcot (pictured below) can take guests to the geographic North Pole, 90 degrees north, and can run on LNG [Liquified Natural Gas] continuously for up to two months.
“Ponant is one of the leaders in responsible tourism. We are proud to offer our clients officially the cleanest, and most sustainable fleet in the industry,” said Winter.
Hervé Gastinel, Ponant chief executive, added: “Putting our technical and human resources at the service of science to create opportunities for research is a logical extension to raising our guests’ awareness of issues related to protecting the planet.
“With Le Commandant Charcot, and in the heritage of her eponymous explorer, our commitment to science is officially anchored as an integral part of our identity.
Commenting on sustainability, Gastinel added: “We have ambitious objectives and are pursuing our actions with determination, as it seems to us essential to protect the ocean, particularly the polar ecosystems.
“We are a company founded by sailors and have always been committed to protecting the oceans.”
Claire Brighton, Atas account director, welcomed Ponant to Atas, commenting: “The company fits very well into our association, with its wide range of adventurous and exciting cruise itineraries around the globe, as well as its steadfast commitment to sustainability and climate action.
“I look forward to seeing their partnerships with UK agents grow and thrive as the cruise line promotes its training, ship visits and other support for the trade.”