The Covid pandemic will be a “blip on the radar” for the travel industry in years to come but it will still serve to hold back projected growth plans, according to the boss of Virgin Voyages.
Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, the line’s chief executive Tom McAlpin said: “We’ve got to get through it, but I’m pretty confident as we get into the latter part of 2021 and 2022, we will be back to doing quite well.”
McAlpin admitted that he expects Virgin Voyages to see slower growth due to the public health emergency but believes demand “will come back really quickly” once his brand starts to become more established.
McAlpin addressed UK agents after the line announced on Monday that its third ship, joining the fleet next year, will be called Resilient Lady and will sail in the Mediterranean in 2022.
He said: “There’s a big market of past cruisers that really want to get back to it. They take cruises every year and they haven’t, so there’s pent-up demand there.
“We always believe that we’re creating something that’s a bit unique and different and that will appeal to a different market. I think with Covid, that may be a bit more difficult, but the good news is that we have a product that appeals to a pretty wide range of folks and it’s very much a different experience.”
McAlpin believes Virgin Voyages’ growth will pick up pace as awareness increases.
“There’s great demand out there; people want to come out, but there’s always people that are a little bit hesitant so it’s going to take a little bit more time for them to get comfortable with getting back to vacationing,” he said.
“It will be a slower growth, but I think it will come back relatively quick once we start gaining traction, and people start knowing our product and who we are. I think people know who Virgin is but they don’t know who Virgin Voyages is.”
He added: “It’s going to be a little bit of a ramp to get there. It’s getting the CDC comfortable; it’s getting people comfortable with our product and that’s going to take a little bit of time, but I think it’ll come quickly and will gain a lot of traction.”
McAlpin added that the line was depending on agents to spread the word.
“People need to understand who we are and what the product is that we’re offering. And that’s where you guys [travel agents] can help tell the story,” he said. “And this is something we’ve done with our travel agents and our platforms like the Seacademy which is out there to tell everyone what Virgin Voyages is all about.”
He added: “It’s setting sail the Virgin way. So it’s more inclusive, there’s great value, it’s a premium experience, you get fantastic dining options where you get to rotate to six different restaurants on board, fantastic entertainment, where the theatre transforms into a different configurations throughout the voyage, and of course, we’re adult-only.
“All of these things allow us to create that premium, more sophisticated experience that I think has a great following and great demand, at least from the folks that we’ve talked to.”
Watch: Virgin Voyages unveils new ship name and itineraries in UK travel trade webinar
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