Although Royal Caribbean International had to hit the pause button on some development plans because of the pandemic, president and CEO Michael Bayley said “now that we’re coming out of it, we pressed play and we’re beginning to reengage in all of these discussions.”
During a Q&A session on Odyssey of the Seas this week, Bayley, pictured at right with Captain Sindre Borsheim, announced the cruise line is in discussions and “hoping to finalize negotiations for a development on Paradise Beach called The Royal Beach Club, and we’re quite close to that. We’ve got plans and designs ready to go so we’re very excited about that.”
Royal Caribbean International is also continuing its discussions with the Bahamian government and various partners on another Bahamas development, at the Grand Lucayan Resort and the port of Freeport in Grand Bahama.
“We’re very close to finalizing all of those details,” he said. “Beyond The Bahamas, we have an entire team that’s been dedicated to either destination or port development.”
RCI is currently in the process of constructing a new terminal in Galveston, Texas, that will accommodate its Oasis and Icon class ships.
“Discussions have been finalized in Barcelona and ports in Asia, and of course in Alaska, so it’s a very important component of our business,” he said. “I would say the one thing that’s increasingly changing now in that discussion and dialogue is the need for sustainability and environmental responsibility. We’ve been partners with the WWF for many years now and talking as partners on how we can develop future projects being incredibly focused on social responsibility and environmental management. Increasingly we’re more engaged in those discussions so we feel like we’re in a positive place, moving in a positive direction.”
A focus on agents
Bayley also took the time to reinforce the cruise line’s committed to the travel trade.
“The travel advisor community is absolutely critical for our industry and we have always been 100% supporters of the travel agent community,” he said. “A lot of the mom and pop shop travel companies and the independents really had a difficult time (during the pandemic). We introduced the RCL Cares program to help fund and provide support for many of our travel advisors.”
Day by day, the percentage of sales coming in through the travel advisor community is increasing.
“We see the ongoing growth of our industry completely linked with our travel advisors and the community,” he said. “We’re excited that it’s coming back and we encourage all travel advisors to get back in the game. It’s all coming back and we see that.”
Meanwhile, Vicki Freed, Senior Vice President Sales & Trade Support, believes they’ve impacted travel agents across the board in some shape through a $40 million interest free loan program, weekly support or through bonuses and commissions.
“Right now we have an instant booking bonus commission paid on deposits, we’re paying over a million dollars a week in bonus commissions on deposited bookings,” she said. “We gave out 5,000 free cruises to anybody who re-upped their ASTA or signed up for ASTA, which is the association that really advocated on behalf of travel agents. So in a variety of different ways we have touched travel partners… We are going to continue to support them because they are our lifeline. We do believe that the value they bring to the consumer in incredible.”
Freed sees the value advisors have in helping clients navigate through the options in order to find the right type of vacation for their individual needs.
“Today it’s confusing to buy a vacation. There’s a lot of protocols, and it’s even confusing prior to all of the protocols because the average consumer who has never taken a cruise vacation may not know the differences between the brands,” she said. “The travel advisor brings us incredible value because they really are able to articulate what Royal Caribbean is about and we’re that very special brand that’s in a category of our own. It’s that quality and energy combined. There are beautiful quality lines out there, there are lines that have energy, but nobody has this unique combination of quality and energy combined.”