Hurtigruten, the Norwegian coastal cruise company, recently moved its North American office to Seattle and partnered with Global Voyages Group for some services. The North American office reports to Senior Vice President Magnus Wrahme, a former Royal Caribbean executive who returned to Norway a year-and-a-half ago and began working for Hurtigruten in May. He spoke with cruise editor Tom Stieghorst about what's changing.
Q: Why move the offices from Florida to Seattle?
A: We didn't really have a very large setup in Florida. The location of the office is perhaps not so important. The thing that was important was to gain a good base of knowledge and experience from a more adventure-oriented marketplace. As polar specialists, we kind of felt a closer link to the Seattle area and Alaska in that respect.
Q: What role does North America play in Hurtigruten's sales strategy?
A: We have an ambition of doubling our volume over the next three years, so that's quite a bold statement. We're starting from a rather small base. We are very aggressively building our brand to become a leading global polar brand.
Q: What will Global Voyages Group be doing?
A: We have a strategic partnership with Global Voyages Group, which means that they are performing certain services for us; this includes marketing services, sales support and also our call center. We've recently moved back a call center into the Seattle office so we can serve the customers in the United States in their time zone. We used to have it in Tallinn, Estonia. People were working in the middle of the night, which wasn't ideal.
Q: What else is different for the agent in their interface with Hurtigruten?
A: There will be more sales representatives around the country. We will put an additional two positions in the Northeast area. We will have three sales managers on the East Coast and three on the West Coast. We will be more visible to the travel agent and be able to conduct more local visits. We'll do more webinars and this type of education.
Q: What separates Hurtigruten from international cruise lines that go to Norway?
A: We feel we offer a very unique, completely different type of experience. We don't even consider ourselves as being a cruise line. Although everyone wants to categorize us in the cruse category, we look at ourselves today as more of an Orient Express or a trans-Siberian railway type of experience.
Q: You have the coastal cruises in Norway and also an expedition ship. How much comes from each segment?
A: We have a legal obligation to operate 11 of our ships along the Norwegian coast. That's part of our contract with the Norwegian state. The one ship we have in the expedition segment is likely to be followed by more as soon as we can provide a higher load factor. We are getting very close. Our ambition is to expand, but it's not easy to find expedition vessels these days.
Q: Does the emergence of Norwegian Air offer guests a chance to take a Hurtigruten cruise with less expense?
A: The Norwegian brand has opened up a lot of direct flights to Norway. Although they are quite new, they do give us a lot of extra opportunity. Iceland Air is another interesting partner, and of course Scandinavian Airlines.
Follow Tom Stieghorst on Twitter @tstravelweekly.