It is important to open lines of communications and create dialogue across the board, according to Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation, who held the company’s first general conference call and frank Q/A session by the CEO with American and European media today. He suggested the event was the beginning of an ongoing dialogue, with periodic conference calls.
Donald fended off relevant and not so relevant questions with great patience. Questions ran from onboard revenue not being commissionable, with Donald saying that the focus should be on increasing ticket prices, which will generate higher commissions, as well as about the perception recovery following the Concordia and Triumph incidents.
He reiterated that the Carnival brand is seeing better than 75 percent perception recovery at this point, which he described as a very encouraging pace.
He outlined the series of marketing initiatives and vessel enhancements introduced in 2013, including an outreach program to travel agents, and new marketing campaigns using passenger comments, photos and videos.
"The Carnival brand has introduced its Vacation and Shore Excursion Guarantees, which means that we stand behind our product," Donald said.
More recently Carnival announced a live concert series being launched aboard its ships in selected ports of call. This follows the recent announcement introducing Dr. Seuss programs.
Donald summarized marketing initiatives across all the brands, including dining and entertainment concepts, itineraries and exterior and interior designs.
He said that in 2014, the company will change how it works – working more together, leveraging its scale, cooperating, collaborating and communicating more – gaining efficiencies behind the scenes.
On the guest level, he underscored, the brands will remain independent and distinct, noting how they target largely different market segments based on psychographics. And, he pointed out that all 120,000 employees are focused on exceeding guest expectations.
As for further growth, Donald described one to two ships per year as “slow growth” – and only 1 to 2 percent on a fleet basis of more than 100 ships. He also seemed to discount any further refits or rebuilds on the scope of the Carnival Sunshine, noting that further refits would be on a smaller scale.
By the end of 2014, Donald said that Carnival will have 103 ships.