After canceling Arctic cruises on three of its vessels for 2009, as a result of “travelers’ interest in Arctic icebreaker expeditions being weaker than expected,” Quark Expeditions is gearing up its sales efforts, Francesco Contini, vice president of marketing and group sales told Cruise Industry News.

“Demand from our main markets (the U.S., UK, and Australia) has been slower than usual, but we are stimulating demand with some tactical incentives, such as added value offers, targeted rate reductions, and commission incentives,” Contini said.

“Our approach in this economic crisis is to employ proven strategies to audiences that know us well, rather than to try and introduce new ideas or reach new markets. But we are also working with our network of partners around the world, taking promotional actions designed to convert interest in our secondary markets, like China, Switzerland, Scandinavia, Japan, and a few others.”

Occupancy for Quark’s 09-10 Antarctica season is currently 2 percent behind year-over-year, Contini said. “That is not good, but it's not tragic either. We are waiting to see how sales will go over the next two and a half months, and we will conduct a review in early April. While we are prepared for Antarctica 09-10 occupancy to be lower than 08-09, we remain optimistic and we do not expect to announce any cancellations.”

As for the future of Arctic and Antarctic cruising, Contini pointed out that he expects growth will continue “for the next 10 years at least, with a bump in the road for 2009 and 2010, and perhaps at a slightly more moderate pace of growth as years go on.”

Quark is also expecting to introduce two more ships that are similar to the ones the company is currently operating, Contini said, i.e. refitted ice-strengthened vessels converted for expedition cruising. “This will be during the 11-12 and 12-13 seasons,” he added.

Currently, Quark has a fleet of eight vessels sailing in Antarctica and the Arctic.