Outbound cruisers are focus for HAL

HOLLAND America Line (HAL) recently signed a partnership with Mezze Associates, the new office for Discover the World Marketing, to manage its sales and marketing strategy  representing the cruise line in the region.

Speaking exclusively to TTN, Russel Sharpe, managing partner, Mezze Associates said: “Mezze Associates has more than 30 years of experience in the Middle East and recognises that the cruise market is ever increasing.”

With a fleet of 15 ships, HAL offers 500-plus cruises to 350 ports in more than 100 destinations. Itineraries are available to visit all seven continents and highlights include Antarctica, South America, Australia/New Zealand and Asia voyages plus a   Grand World Voyage.

“We anticipate that from the Middle East, the European and Mediterranean destinations will be most popular,” said Sharpe. “The Nieuw Amsterdam is the latest addition to the European fleet. The signature-class ship, will sail its first full year of itineraries in 2011 and we expect it to be very popular with Arab travellers.”

He believes HAL’s premium product will also be popular with the expat communities and honeymooners.

“Key markets will be the major outbound markets such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and the UAE. We want to focus on high-yield business and Saudi Arabia has demonstrated itself to be the highest-yielding market,” he added.

As the company continues to grow its itineraries, HAL will deploy ms Volendam and ms Zaandam in Australia, New Zealand, Asia and the South Pacific in 2011-12, marking the first time the line will have two ships sailing a series of itineraries in the region simultaneously allowing travellers seeking a longer exploration to sail a Collectors’ Voyage from 27 to 39 days which combines two back-to-back itineraries.

However there are no immediate plans to begin sailings in the Middle East. “As most of the cruise passengers, or certainly the Arab travellers, prefer to travel overseas and go on a cruise as ‘bolt on’,” said Sharpe. “Whilst we are aware there is a growing market there, our focus is very much on the main outbound destinations for Arab travellers.”

Sharpe firmly believes the key to success in the Middle East is partnership. “We are committed to increasing distribution and this is very important to us so we are aiming to work with the trade to build this,” he said. “One major item that forms a large part of our sales and marketing strategy is agent training.  Loyalty schemes for agents will also play an important role. We will also focus on high-net-worth individuals and generally drive brand awareness for Holland America, leading to more confidence to book.”