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Wed 8 Nov 2006 04:00 AM

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Royal Caribbean to target Middle East

Middle East sales for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (RCCL) achieved year-on-year growth this summer despite political, economic and social factors that either dampened demand or resulted in last minute cancellations.

Middle East sales for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (RCCL) achieved year-on-year growth this summer despite political, economic and social factors that either dampened demand or resulted in last minute cancellations.

The 16% increase in passenger numbers, emanating primarily from the GCC and Levant, has reconfirmed the importance of the Middle East as one of RCCL’s fastest growing source markets, and as a result, the cruise company is set to tailor its strategy for 2008 and beyond to better serve this region.

“The Middle East is a key market for us and we have our eye on it in terms of medium- to long-term development,” said Helen Beck, regional sales director, international representatives, Europe, Middle East & Africa, RCCL.

“The North American market currently represents 75-80% of our business, but we don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket and want to cater better to our guests in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. We want to give them closer proximity to sailings.”

As a result, RCCL has a number of new itineraries and extra sailings in Europe lined up for 2008-2009, bearing in mind that 70% of Middle East guests opt for Mediterranean and North European itineraries.

The Voyager of the Seas and Navigator of the Seas, which have traditionally been Caribbean-based, will sail from Barcelona and Southampton respectively on Mediterranean itineraries, while the Legend of the Seas will sail out of Rome from May to November, boasting itineraries that take in several European countries such as Italy, Greece, Croatia and Turkey.

“We will also do some short three- or four-night sailings out of Hamburg, Oslo and Southampton, which are targeted at incentives business,” explained Beck.

With the Middle East’s outbound market in mind, RCCL is also redeploying a ship to Asia for the first time ever.

The Rhapsody of the Seas will reach Singapore by December 10, 2007, in order to embark on a series of itineraries, which will range in duration from four to 12 nights, including open jaw sailings.

Short duration trips are likely to include Shanghai to Japan, Singapore to Malaysia or Phuket, while the ports of call on longer itineraries will include Vietnam, Cambodia, Korea, Taiwan and even Australia and New Zealand. Sailings out of Hong Kong are also planned.

RCCL made history in May when the largest cruise liner in the world, the 160,000 tonne Freedom of the Seas, embarked on its maiden voyage, carrying 4600 guests.

But the cruise line has already embarked on a project that will top this.

The Genesis project, due for completion in 2009, will see a 220,000 tonne vessel, catering to 5600 guests, take to the high seas.

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