R11 Travel is responsible for all Royal Caribbean brands’ cruise sales in Brazil as of this month. The company is owned and led by Ricardo Amaral, who served as regional vice president for Latin America and Brazil for Royal Caribbean since 2009.
With no ship deployed in South America for local passenger sourcing this coming season (the Celebrity Infinity will only call once in Rio during Carnival on her cruises between Valparaiso and Buenos Aires), Royal Caribbean changed its market strategy, Amaral explained, and is closing its Brazil office, while maintaining services for cruises sold before August 1.
With the Brazilian market shrinking from more than 900,000 passengers on local sailings a few years ago to an estimated 300,000 this coming season, Royal Caribbean has also been shifting its focus to more outbound passengers, according to Amaral.
He said that last year, 60 percent of the passengers on Royal Caribbean ships were outbound and 40 percent were on so-called cabotage cruises. “Now, since we have no cabotage ship for the upcoming season, having its own office here and a fixed cost structure did not make sense for Royal Caribbean,” he said. “The exclusive distribution agreement with R11 Travel is a much more viable option for Royal and for me.”
Citing political and economic turmoil, taxes and lack of infrastructure, Amaral said that for a global company like Royal Caribbean it makes more sense to invest in other growing markets instead. Royal Caribbean is not limited to use South America for its winter deployment.
He believes there is a huge outbound cruise potential considering all the Brazilians who have taken short cruises out of Brazil over the past few years.
R11 has already launched a new booking engine that Amaral said will “allow for dynamic packaging and include air since all the sales our all outbound.”
During the first two weeks of August, he said R11 had 50 percent more phone calls than forecasted, with 9,000 calls, and that bookings were up 35 percent in the first week and 27 percent the second week over last year.
Amaral said he thinks his outbound sales should reach 100,000 passengers a year and that the Royal Caribbean brands already dominate the outbound market with more than a 50 percent share and at “very good per diems.”
“For the consumer there is no change; there has been a smooth and seamless transition. Consumers probably do not even know that there has been a distribution change; they keep buying cruises from travel agents or directly from our website.”
Amaral is also in charge of the Latin American market’s management, supporting Royal Caribbean’s sales representatives in the other markets (outside of Brazil) with another company that he also owns, Aqua Travel and Tourism.
Amaral explained the name, R11 Travel: “R is the only letter that is in all the names of the Royal Caribbean brands that we sell: Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity, Azamara and Pullmantur. 11 is the area code for Sao Paulo where our first office is located.”
Amaral has worked for Royal Caribbean for more than 17 years, starting out as an international sales representative in Brazil. He has also served as chairman of Abremar, the Brazilian cruise industry trade association.