New head of Princess Cruises talks about what’s coming up for Southeast Asia

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One of the region’s top industry leaders has praised the role of travel agents in SE Asia for growing cruise – and he promised even more support and training.

Princess Cruises has already identified fly-cruise as an area with strong potential growth.

The line’s Stuart Allison, Senior Vice President, Asia Pacific Commercial & Operations, has just returned from a tour of the region, including China, Taiwan, Japan and Singapore.

“One of the trends we’ve seen in Australia in the last 10 – 15 years is that as the market expands, people say: ‘I want to go further afield for my next cruise’.

“Right now, the fly cruise markets are pretty modest for Asia.  But as as the lines spend more on market, I’m pretty sure that more people around the world are going to fly in to cruise with us.”

Mr Allison has just presided over a record first week of sales for the line’s 2019/20 season in Australia, during which some cruises sold out almost immediately.

Mr Allison, who was recently appointed to his new wider regional role, said his job was to plan for the longer term of the popular line, including port development and growing distribution of cruise across the region.

There is “huge potential” he said, and the region offered natural seasonal offsets where cruise ships could simply base themselves were it was summer.

“One thing I learned on this visit was that Japan has more ports of call than any other country in the world. I think it’s about 50, and we are cruising to 30. I think a market like Japan has got very big potential.”

Princess has had good success with seven nights and longer sailings from Singapore in the Australian and north American markets.

“The shorter cruises are more critical to local cruising: Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and India.  And you get people coming from China and Japan to Singapore to cruise.”

On travel agents, Mr Allison said the line’s amazing success in Australia was largely due to the travel agent network.

In Asia, where cruise was new “We’ve got a lot of work to do to explain what cruise is, and the travel agent is and will remain critical.

“I would say I can count on one the proportion of business that’s booked direct. It’s so insignificant it’s like an accounting error.”

He added that growing the fly cruise market, we need to make sure we work with travel agents to ensure they go on the right ship with the right brand, otherwise it reduces the likelihood they will recommend cruise to a friend.

Mr Allison said it was easier to inspire agents when ships were sailing into ports.  so training programs in inland regions was important.

“We are continuing on building participation with our training recourse – our academy program. We are building it into many languages.

“We see in other markets that people who reach commodore status are likely to be better performing agents.”

On his views of the market’s expansions after his first regional tour in his new role, he said: The fact that there are 100 new ships on order, a huge pipeline of capacity, developing Asia is critical to the future of the industry.

“But when you think last year close to three million took a cruise close to home and 300,000 took a cruise further afield, there is a lot of potential to grow that group let alone new markets.”