85,000 Israelis, one percent of the population, went on a cruise this year, and Nick Wilkinson Vice President and Managing Director UK&I MEA and Israel of Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) predicts that this number will grow by 20% next year. This growth reflects general growth in the sector in the number of passengers (led by the US, Germany, and China).
25.8 million people worldwide have gone on cruises in 2017, and this number is projected to grow to 30 million by 2022. For the sake of emphasis, the number of cruise passengers in 2015 was 23 million. Among other things, Chinese passengers are responsible for this increase, and are changing all aspects of the aviation and global tourism map.
"Israel is an important market for us. From year to year, we're seeing a growing appetite for vacation cruises among Israeli tourists," Wilkinson said today. According to him, Israel is in sixth place worldwide in the number of per capita cruise passengers. The company has also opened a local office in Israel headed by Eyal Solomon.
The most popular destinations for the Israeli passenger are Barcelona and Rome. Other destinations include the US, with the introduction of direct flights to Miami by El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. (TASE: ELAL) pushing this popular exit point for the Israeli traveler also. Wilkinson notes that cooperation with airlines will be expanded.
"The way we see it, we're not a cruise company; we're a floating resort. We don't compete with other cruise companies; we compete with "everything included" resorts on land," Wilkinson adds. "This is a change in concept for us, and we believe that the consumers will also understand this. We're originally a Norwegian company, but we think globally, and today, we cover every corner of the globe."
The company, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, has an annual turnover of $4.9 billion (12.2% growth), with $776 million in net revenue.
How do you push the Israeli market? First the company offers routes with a variety of kosher supervision for religiously observant passengers. Secondly, it offers a second vacation at half price. The price range starts at $700-800, and goes all the way to $10,000 for a haven rated cruise with luxury conditions. "The goal is to adapt ourselves to any budget at both the level of the rooms, including cabins for a single passenger and rooms with or without balconies," Wilkinson says.
Are the prices in Israel the same as you can find through overseas travel agents?
Wilkinson said, "A customer who contacts one of the company centers in Malta or the US will get the same price as he gets online (on the company website). The second passenger at half price bargain is special for the Israeli market, and does not exist for the US passenger. The goal is to offer a good price for the Israeli passenger and increase the volume of activity. There are cases in which the prices among travel agents are cheaper, because travel agents assemble packages that include flights, which is likely to offer a worthwhile price to the customer."
He adds, "Over the years, the prices have risen, not by large percentages, and this was a result mostly of operating costs. If we look at luxury resort, such as Club Med, the prices there will be higher than the value on our cruises. We don't apologize for the prices, because the value for the money at all levels, from hosting to quality service and food, is built-in."
In 2016, the company will launch the Bliss Norwegian ocean liner in Alaska and the Caribbean, and the plan is to launch another ship in 2019 in the framework of a general plan. In 2022, first ocean liner will be launched in the Leonardo project, which will include smaller ships designed for 3,300 passengers, compared with a capacity of 4,000 and more for the same size ships as at present, with the aim of enhancing the public spaces and the cruise experience.
Concerning the price, which is likely to increase, Solomon says that policy has not yet been set. Incidentally, 90 new ocean liners by various cruise companies are expected to be launched by 2027, which may change the competition map and affect the prices for the consumer.
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on November 19, 2017
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