RCCL Chairman Fain Credits Travel Agency Community
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard Fain credited travel agents for helping the cruise industry overcome negative consumer press stemming from recent incidents. In a conference call about first-quarter earnings with analysts, Fain opened with a statement that addressed those issues.
“Yes, the recent negative media coverage has been frustrating, and yes, it’s probably affected us a bit, but no, it has not been a game-changer for our brands,” Fain said.
He said RCCL has experienced “very strong support” from the travel agent community. “They have been effective at communicating the industry’s high safety standards, especially to inexperienced cruisers who are probably the most influenced” by negative media coverage.
CFO Brian Rice said there was a “modest slowdown” in demand in March from North Americans for Caribbean cruises. That was due in part from the timing of holidays and spring break, he said, but also the negative publicity that stemmed primarily from the Carnival Triumph, which lost power in the Gulf of Mexico in mid-February.
Still, he said pricing is more stable this year compared to last year. Average lead prices are about 3 percent higher than last year for departures within the next 12 months, he said, and the average booking is made two weeks earlier than in 2011 and 2012. “It looks strikingly similar to 2008,” Rice said.
Later in the call, Fain elaborated on the topic of travel agents. “I think the travel agent community is particularly helpful in times when there is misunderstanding in the world, and right now there has been a lot of misunderstanding in the world and exaggerated media reports, which they have helped clarify, particularly with first-time cruisers who may have the most misconceptions about cruising in terms of its safety but also how enjoyable it is and what a value it is,” he said. “Their support for the industry as a whole has remained unchanged.”
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