Spanish Market: 200k Pax

The Spanish cruise market produced 200,000 passengers in 2003, according to Tony Wanguemert, president of Latitud 4, a travel agency group in Barcelona. "The market is clearly on the rise," he said. "I can see the number going up eight to 10 percent by the end of 2004, and doubling within 10 years."

Ships accommodating Spaniards differ significantly, particularly when it comes to price and onboard culture. "The prices for Spanish passengers are cheaper than ever," Wanguemert said. "And that aspect is really being used as a selling tool now." Wanguemert noted that the three major Spanish tour operators in the cruise market are Globalia, Iberost AR and Pullmantur. "Sometimes cruises are even half price compared to what it would be in the U.S. You could pay $300 to 350 for a seven­ day cruise," Wanguemert continued, pointing out that price is a such major concern among Spaniards, it often overshadows a ship's age and condition.

Spanish for Spanish

The biggest difference. Wanguemert explained, is that Spanish cruises are exclusively Spanish for Spanish. "Spaniards like to be around their own; they like to feel at home on cruises marketed to them,"· he said. Favorite embarkation ports are Barcelona and Valencia. according to Wanguemert. "Valencia is a relatively new homeport very convenient for people from Madrid," he noted. "Its facilities are also very first rate."' Although the preference among many Spaniards is a seven-day cruise, Wanguemert said that in time, as the demand for cruising becomes higher, companies will have to expand. "The reality is, there are only so many places that you can visit in seven days," he underlined. Wanguemert also explained that while many Spanish cruises operate year-round. They often focus on the vacation months of July and August. He pointed out that Spaniards - especially first-time cruisers, prefer to stay closer to home, where no additional domestic transportation is involved. "Spaniards will fly, but they are not that fond of it." Wanguemert added. The Mediterranean ranks highest among cruise destinations for Spaniards, Wanguemert noted, because of its proximity, economical value, and the similarities with Italian and French culture. The Baltic and Alaska follow second and third, respectively. South America is a destination Wanguemert referred to as "unattractive" for Spanish passengers.

Latitud 4 has a 47-person staff with four offices in Spain. It surpassed the 30,000-passenger mark in 2003.

Growth of Pullmantur

While Spanish tour operator Pullmantur would not comment specifically on its passenger sales, a spokesperson said that the company did "significantly better'· in 2003 than it did in 2002, and sees the tour nnerator following the same format in 2004 and beyond. Pullmantur presently owns and operates three vessels and is chartering one. It's most recent addition from Star Cruises, the Superstar Aries, was renamed the Holiday Dream, and like the rest of its fleet, will be marketed to Spanish clientele. The company also owns the Oceanic and the Pacific (ex­ Pacific Princess), and is chartering the Blue Star (ex­ R6). All ships will be sailing seasonally in the Mediterranean, except for the Pacific, which will be sailing year-round in the Caribbean.

According to Jordi Sune, commercial subdirector for Pullmantur, Spanish passengers value the quality onboard more so than the appearance of the ship.

Sune said: "Many Spaniards have a positive image of going on a ship, but you have to really follow through and deliver on the little things. I believe Pullmantur does that better than anyone." Sune also explained that before Pullrnantur, Spaniards considered cruising very expensive.

The company started its cruise division in 1998 citing the prediction of a growing Spanish market as the primary reason. While cruising is now 50 percent of revenues, Pullmantur also features an air travel and bus tour sector.

Sune pointed out that Pullmantur's first project is to buy the Blue Star, and depending on the state of the market, the tour operator may purchase even more vessels. Sune also spoke of growing from an international perspective. "We plan on marketing our ships to other Europeans vacationing in Spain as well." he added, noting that with a growing fleet, there will be a greater desire to appeal to other European countries.

Being Unique

Alfredo Serrano managing director of Spanish Cruise Line (SCL), owned by tour operator Iberojet, had a total of 44,000 Spaniards cruising with them in 2003, up from 2002's total of 30.000 passengers. SCL sells and operates seven-day all­ Spanish cruises to the Western Mediterranean with the Grand Latino (ex-Superstar Capricorn), which it owns and currently operates year-round.

The primary difference between exclusive Spanish operators like SCL, and companies such as Costa Crociere, that visit Spanish destinations, according to Serrano, is that Costa will fill its ships with different nationalities, and the onboard life will cater to a general audience. "There are cultural differences that cannot be neglected, such as Spaniards' eating habits, which are often much later in the day than other Europeans and Americans," Serrano said. "Our company does not try to be everything to all people. We just want to stay true to the uniqueness of the Spanish market. It's something we are really pushing now. Asked if he has any plans to market to anyone else besides Spaniards, he pointed out that Portugal makes up a small percentage of his clientele, and said he would not be against branching out even further.

Future of the Spanish Market

Serrano said that despite the growth in the market. One of the biggest challenges for SCL, is to plan ahead for cruisers that will be repeating. "Our small fleet does not attract repeat cruisers," he pointed out. "Expansion is something that we have to seriously consider in the years ahead. Eventually different locations will have to be considered to spread things out a bit," he continued.

Serrano also explained that the Spanish cruise market is not segmented like North American and European cruise lines -- there is no mass market or luxury sector. "Cruising for Spaniards is still so relatively new that the segmentation is more of a first­ time and repeat variety," he said.

 

 

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