week ago in this space we observed
that the hotel business may be entering another phase of
proliferating new brands and niches. We also cited a recent
commentary on the cruise industry suggesting that cruise lines
should work harder to differentiate their brands and their ships
from each other because, for some consumers, "it's homogenous out
These two trends, if they are trends, just collided.
Four Seasons, a hotel company, may be putting its brand on ships
that would be marketed as floating residences.
The idea of the floating condominium is not new, of course.
Twenty years ago an entrepreneur thought (wrongly, as it turned
out) that the concept would bring the SS United States back to
life. More recently, the idea was successfully put to practice with
the World of Residensea.
The World proved that the residential model can work for ships,
and Disney and Radisson both proved that a land-based hospitality
brand can successfully put out to sea, so why should we expect it
to end there?
People in the cruise business are fond of saying it's still a
young business, that the percentage of people who have ever cruised
is still in the teens. They're also fond of saying that while they
compete with each other, their biggest competitors are the
operators of land-based vacations and resorts.
Against that background, one wonders why hoteliers looking for
new opportunities have not gone to sea in greater numbers. Perhaps
it's still early in the game.
• • •
Produce or perish?
he new president of Funjet
Vacations, Ray Snisky, wants to focus his marketing resources on
what he called "an elite collection of the most forward-thinking,
productive agencies in the business." As reported in our news pages
today, this means the operator's top-selling agencies and those who
are not in the top tier but who are committed to growing their
Snisky says, "The folks who want to work closely with us are the
ones we want to work with."
This seems like a sound and reasonable business strategy and
Mark Travel officials are correct to point out that it is not a
revolutionary departure. It is not unlike the strategy being
pursued by other top vacation companies such as Pleasant or Classic
-- or Carnival.
But in our conversations with Mark Travel about the new regime
at Funjet, what we find most telling is the absence of any mention
of "consortia" or "preferred relationships."
Increasingly, suppliers are making it known to their agents that
what matters most is delivering the business, not belonging to this
or that group.
We don't think for a moment that the consortium model has
outlived its usefulness for retailers or its value to suppliers,
but it should be clear to both sides now what will happen if one is
forced to choose between a partner that performs and one that