Costa Cruises has played down trade speculation that it is about to exit the UK cruise business as part of changes to its London office.

The Italian line, which is owned by Carnival Corporation, the global cruise giant, is restructuring its UK operation, moving some sales, marketing and finance functions to its Italian base in Genoa.

UK managing director Marco Rosa is also due to return to his native Italy to take on an expanded role. As well as continuing to handle the UK, he will also take on more of northern Europe and South Africa.

A small number of redundancies have been made at Costa’s office in London, which it shared with Carnival Cruise Line and Holland America Line, but an agency sales team will be retained and managed by Rosa.

Industry speculation that Costa was effectively pulling out of the UK market was also rubbished this week by the operator, which said its top agency accounts would continue to be managed from London.

Rosa said 90% of Costa’s UK business came from just 20% of the agencies it works with and the changes were a “rationalising” of resources which reflected that.

As a result of the changes – a statement about which is due to be issued today – smaller agency accounts will be managed from a call centre in Genoa.

Rosa said despite the changes it would be business as usual, but that the reorganisation would allow the line to invest in other projects.

He said Costa’s commitment to the UK was demonstrated by its recent decision to join Abta and by the fact that only a very small number of UK agents use its call centre with most now booking online.

Costa has been one of the world’s fastest-growing cruise lines in recent years. Its latest ship on order will be the third-largest globally in terms of capacity once delivered in 2012.

It has moved away from focusing purely on its Italian heritage, becoming more international in nature, although most of its customers are from Italy and Spain.

Costa has pioneered cruise departures in new destinations including the Middle East, basing ships in Dubai, and the Far East, and this has proved particularly popular with UK customers.

Rosa originally came to the UK for what was planned to be a temporary one-year stint, but has been based at the UK office for the past five years.