Who Says Luxury is Beyond Your Imagination?

Ratna Chadha, Chief Executive of TIRUN Travel Marketing and India representative of Royal Caribbean Cruises believes luxury ships are now affordable, contemporary and reveals how she plans to promote cruise tourism in India.

IN A move aimed to make cruise bookings simpler for its partners, TIRUN has recently launched an app to facilitate easier searching of cruise vacations, checking for multiple itineraries, and handling multiple quotes and bookings, all in a seamless manner. TIRUN was the first travel service provider to launch Virtual Reality in this segment back in October 2016. And now with this app, it serves as a unique ‘online assistant’ to all the travel partners, facilitating information, marketing, and the booking processes. “Through the app, travel partners can get access to exclusive virtual reality-based content and videos from TIRUN’s library, helping them to market cruises better by giving potential guests a tangible glimpse of the premium vacation experience that awaits them. It has information regarding itineraries, destinations, departure ports, preferred month, and the desired cruise line easily available and can be emailed to the guests for quick and efficient service,” says Ratna Chadha. 

Chadha is quite confident of her 25 years of partnership with Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. in India and aims to achieve better numbers in 2017. “Our growth is largely dependent on the deployment of the ships and now that we have ships close to home i.e. Singapore, we will be able to attract more footfall. We need to be more visible as a brand and cover the whole region of India with more districts outside the metros that are becoming aspirational now,” says Chadha.

In an effort to iron out the processes and policies of cruise tourism in India, Chadha is an active member of the government task force and believes that cruise tourism is a recurring business. “Singapore is a small island but it receives 15M people a year, mainly through cruises. India needs to be better at it and gradually it will grow. Even the government is quite keen to boost this sector. It’s not just one ministry working on the cruise industry hence it is a cumbersome process. As a service provider, we are expecting a 60 per cent growth rate over the previous year in passenger bookings from India.”

India is the largest source market for Singapore but at the same time it is a very late booking market, so the challenges are huge. Tirun plans to fill up the ships from Singapore. “We are trying to work on the system as to how we can capture the inventory in advance and avoid last minute bookings from Indians. So we will pick up inventory in bulk and put it out to distributors and partners so that we start selling in advance.”

However, Singapore, Dubai, Hong Kong, the Mediterranean and Caribbean being popular destinations among Indians, she feels, “The cost per person on a cruise is $150-200 per night which one would shell out for an overseas vacation on land.”

As pioneers in the concept of cruising, RCC together with Tirun, aims to bring aspirational value to the customer. “It is a rare case to be cruising with the same brand for so many years. Both Tirun and RCC speak the same language to potential market India.”

With a hope to have a ship in the backyard and cater to the average Indian, Chadha doesn’t feel the need to talk to the affluent and the rich as “nobody has given rights to decide that they cannot afford our brand.”  So the ships are not tagged for the luxury segment. “No, there is nothing like luxury. There is a miscommunication, misconception and misnomer. Everything is not luxury. Luxury ships can be affordable and contemporary. The minute I say luxury, the connotations are – ‘this is beyond my capacity’. So these misconceptions have taken us 25 years to reach where we are. There is lack of awareness of what luxury is. Like every hotel is not a luxury hotel, similarly within the cruise line, we straddle with contemporary ships, family cruise line, premium and luxury segment.”

Bridging the gap between aspirations and actions, Chadha is now starting to cater to tier 2 and tier 3 markets like Raipur and Bhatinda. “Why should a Chennai person get precedence over Cochin or Chandigarh over Bhatinda? We have researched in these areas and found that there is a market to tab and hence we have drafted a niche plan to easily get the visa for such cities. Over the years the trend has changed. Now we need to cater to the multi-generation travelers. And there is a demand for destination weddings which is growing by 15-20%.”

However, Chadha remembers the time when she started to market cruises in India. “We started with a small base and it is still very small. We have a very long way to go as there is not much awareness about the product and the conventional thinking of expensive and luxury is always on everybody’s mind. But this is not the truth.”

TIRUN has announced 2 new ships – Celebrity Edge under Celebrity Cruises & Symphony of the Seas under Royal Caribbean International. Celebrity Edge, the first of the Edge-class of ships from Celebrity Cruises, is a beauty on waters is the epitome of architectural, aesthetical and conceptual brilliance that can be achieved in the cruising segment. Celebrity Edge will undertake its maiden voyage in December 2018, pre-bookings for which have already started and are in full swing.

Symphony of the Seas, the world largest cruise ship will be the most astounding cruise ship in size and luxury that the world has ever seen. Symphony of the Seas will claim the title of the world’s largest – and most adventure filled – cruise ship, offering 28 more staterooms than her newest sister ship Harmony of the Seas and encompassing 230,000 gross registered tons. The 26th ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet, Symphony of the Seas, will be delivered in April 2018 and spend her inaugural summer season exploring the awe-inspiring destinations of the Mediterranean calling on ports in Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Provence, France; Florence/Pisa, Rome and Naples, Italy.  She will then arrive to Miami in early November to begin seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries on Saturday, November 17 from the state-of-the-art Terminal A, dubbed the ‘Crown of Miami.’ 

With the changing consumer behaviour, there has been a demand in terms of MICE groups. “When you are carrying 500 people together, you don’t want to go hopping from flight to flight. So deployment helps us in terms of large groups and family celebrations,” she says.

So has the cruise market in India developed in the past few years? “It is still a very immature market as we don’t have any brand within the country. If you have a brand representation from India then there is progression in the industry. Procuring a visa is still not an easy task in India.”

Summing up on the advantages of cruising as the best way to holiday, Chadha wraps up the conversation by giving a list of activities on board. “Once you board, you are in a safe and secured environment for 7 nights with all the facilities. TIRUN offers customized uber luxury suites. A new edge ship to be launched in 2018 will have a virtual balcony which allows you to walk to the water’s edge. Celebrity Edge has a 3D design with pool, restaurants, concierge, completely separated from the rest of the ship, yet it is part of the ship. The ship allows one to check-in online, choose beverage packages, internet package, and dining options,” she concludes.

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