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Havila Voyages aims to ‘build brand’ during Wave

Havila Voyages’ UK boss believes the new Norwegian coastal line will be operating at full tilt by the 2023 winter season.

Havila Capella, the first of four 640-passenger ships, is set to launch out of Bergen on December 12, before the remaining three vessels come into service during 2022.

All four ships had been scheduled to launch this year but the pandemic forced the line to delay and stagger the launches instead.

UK country manager Matthew Valentine told a Travel Weekly webcast: “By Q3 next year we will have four ships operating every two or three days from Bergen.

“We’re looking forward to the winter season 2023 when we’ve really got fully capacity and there’s a full opportunity for everyone to sell against.”

Havila Capella and sister vessels – Havila Castor, Havila Polaris and Havila Pollux – will operate round-trip 12-day voyages between Bergen and Kirkenes.

Valentine said that the opening three months of 2022 will be “pretty busy” with just one ship due to operate the route.

Asked how well sold the line was next year, he said: “We’re really well [sold] because obviously the limited capacity because ships are coming in.

“We’re reasonably well booked through March, February, so Q1 is pretty busy. The summer on Capella and Castor is quite well booked.

“And the second two ships [Havila Polaris and Havila Pollux] are moderately well booked. Once we get into Q3, there’s a bit more capacity available. And from there, obviously, we haven’t really entered the sales period for Q4 yet.”

Valentine admitted there have been “a fair” number of re-bookings due to the delayed ship launches.

He said his immediate aim is to build the brand and work with the trade, rather than achieving any specific sales targets.

“It’s about getting our name known among the trade,” he said. “That’s kind of the focus of our initial activities rather than a direct sales push because we’re not quite there yet in terms of our brand awareness and market penetration.”

He added that he was focused on “securing opportunities” with specialist tour operators and travel agencies

“With only one ship at the start we’re pretty full to be honest,” he said. “We’re not looking at our short-term strategy. We haven’t got too much capacity even over the summer to fill.

“It’s more about looking to when we do have all four ships to fill and we do have full capacity. That’s when there are bigger opportunities for everyone.”

Valentine predicted that more than a thousand Britons would sail with the line during its inaugural year, adding: “At the moment we’re very much selling through kind of specialist tour operators in the UK and kind of expanding out from there.”

Havila does not have an Atol licence but plans to obtain one in the future. “In this day and age, people appreciate a packaged product,” Valentine added. “We’re supporting those operators very much at the moment, because that’s what we see is the best for the customer.

“And that will probably be the case for the next kind of couple of years as we grow into the market.”

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