“Our DNA, our identity, which has been adrift over the last few years, is that we are a Spanish cruise line,” said Richard Vogel, president and CEO of the Pullmantur Group, managing both Pullmantur Cruises and Croiseres de France (CDF).
In an exclusive interview with Cruise Industry News, he said: “We are the only Spanish cruise line, that is what we have to communicate, and also what it means for the onboard product, the onboard language, the atmosphere and the overall experience.
“Considering those attributes,” he continued, “Pullmantur has lots of opportunities in the Spanish market.”
After a recession that led other brands to leave, the market is coming back slowly, but surely, according to Vogel.
He said: “We are seeing the economy recovering, that more people are willing to travel again, and that is reflected in our bookings. It is not yet back to where it was and you cannot compare the Spanish market to Germany, the UK or Italy. Spain is a smaller market, but it has significant growth potential.”
While refocusing on the brand’s original market, Spain, he said that France and Latin America are also considered core markets.
Meanwhile, the two-brand structure is on the table, according to Vogel. “We are looking at whether it is the right approach; we are working on it,” he said. “If you compare to the German market, you see that the two leading brands are totally dedicated to that market only. And that makes them much stronger there than the international cruise lines. In that respect, Pullmantur compares favorably when we focus on our core market and don’t spread ourselves thin on too many other markets, so at the end of the day we would become an international brand, losing our Spanish identity.”
While reviewing the two brands, for summer 2017 and the winter season 2017-2018, Pullmantur will, for different reasons, according to Vogel, not have a 100-percent dedicated ship to the French market, because of higher demand in Latin American markets.
“We will continue to sell our product under the CDF banner, but we have to be focused on the Spanish and Latin American markets,” he said, “although we welcome French passengers aboard our ships. It may look like CDF will not play a big role, but that only means we are focusing on our two main source markets, Spain and Latin America. We will continue to market in France, but for 2017 we will not have a 100 percent French ship.”
Vogel continued: “We have to be focused on and improving our brand and what we deliver, which, at the end of the day, in my opinion, is not really all that well known in Spain. So step-by-step, I want us to play a more significant role in the Spanish and Latin American markets.”
Setting the product apart is Spanish-speaking crew, but that by itself is not enough, according to Vogel, who said the onboard atmosphere is that of Spain, including different dinner times, with guest flow being completely different from Northern Europe. And that in turn means that the workflow for the crew is different too, most of whom have been with Pullmantur for a long time, according to Vogel, and consistently receive high ratings from passengers.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us, we are in a very competitive environment, and we know that we do not have the youngest fleet in the market, but we can compensate for that through our product, our service, and our great team aboard and shoreside,” he said.
His long-term vision? Make Pullmantur the most successful cruise brand in Spain.
Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Winter 2016/2017