Royal Caribbean must “work hard to mitigate the hole” left in its business by Thomas Cook’s collapse, according to the line’s UK boss.
Cook, which failed in the early hours of Monday morning (23 September), had “always been very good at attracting new customers to try cruise,” managing director Ben Bouldin told TTG.
Bouldin said he believed “every travel business would be impacted” with the loss of the iconic brand, predicting there was “still a long way to go” until the true effects were felt.
Royal’s “primary focus in the immediate term" he explained, was on safeguarding future Cook bookings for customers who he said had “booked in good faith and deserved to be able to go on holiday.”
When asked how Royal was working with members of the Freedom Travel Group – who have been left struggling to save their businesses after the consortium’s systems were effectively shut down upon Cook entering liquidation – Bouldin said Royal would be meeting with its RCCL sister brands Celebrity Cruises and Azamara next week to discuss their approach to support Freedom agents and develop plans to help trade partners dealing with the fallout.
“There were so many aspects to Cook’s business that we can’t just offer a one-size-fits-all approach, so we need to be able to help agents in the right ways,” he said, adding how it was “crucial” for cruise lines to also be promoting vacancies within their businesses to ex-Cook staff looking for new roles.
Looking ahead to the future, Bouldin said he saw “great opportunity” for agents to expand their own retail networks and for the gap in the cruise sector’s retail distribution to be filled in the wake of Cook’s failure.
“There is still a huge amount of British holidaymakers that will want to go on holiday, and if someone can turn even some of that market towards cruise then the sector will really benefit.”
Royal held a celebration evening marking its 50th anniversary and the fifth birthday of its Club Rewards programme at Stapleford Park in Leicestershire last night (26 September).
Speaking on stage, Stuart Byron, Royal’s director of insights, who joined the line last year after previously working for FMCG brands including Mars and Coca-Cola, said he found the outpouring of support from the industry towards Cook staff “really heartening and quite different from other industries”.
“When I worked in FMCG news like this [Cook’s failure] would have been greeted with delight by your competitors – but not in this industry,” he said. “The effort to get all customers home or rebooked and to suppport Thomas Cook staff has been incredible.”