An ambitious turn-around plan in the works for three years is starting to bear fruit as Hurtigruten has returned to profitability, ordered new ships, and has its eyes firmly set on the high-risk/high-reward expedition market, according to CEO Daniel Skjeldam.
“We started cutting costs and focusing more on the income side, with a new strategy for the company,” said Skjeldam. “We are going to grow on the Norwegian coast and elsewhere.”
The company has traditionally operated Norwegian coastal voyages, servicing ports up and down Norway’s seaboard on a contract with the Norwegian government.
Now they are opening up the globe, as Skjeldam said the brand is the largest operator in the Arctic and will soon become the largest in Antarctica.
He is adding Amazon River cruises and Canada’s Newfoundland/Labrador in 2017, before two new expedition ships join the fleet in 2018 and 2019.
“If we look at our position, we are the largest explorer operator with 14 vessels. No one is close to us in that segment,” said Skjeldam.
The Spitsbergen, a converted ferry, was added to the fleet in June.
The bigger news, however, is the biggest investment in the company’s 120-year history with the order of two new sleek 600-passenger expedition ships.
The vessels will join the company in 2018 and 2019, respectively, and are being built at Kleven Marine in Norway on a Rolls-Royce-designed technical platform. The order includes two options.
“It’s important for us to expand in the market where we have an important position,” said Skjeldam. “We see expansion possibilities in the Arctic and Antarctica, and other places.”
After three years of essentially returning the company to profitability status, Skjeldam sees a bright future.
“It’s fair to say a few years ago the company was facing a lot of challenges; it had been unprofitable for a number of years,” he told Cruise Industry News. “A few years ago there were more challenges than there are today. Today, our challenge might be Antarctica. It’s a hot item at the moment, but with our customer portfolio and our product, we are a front-runner in the market going forward. Our new ships will provide a good ROI and are a good size to provide an explorer-type experience.
“(In the future) we will be more visible as a company in the cruise industry,” Skjeldam continued. “And one that expands quite significantly.”