Six executives from six sectors of the travel industry hotel, cruise, aviation, tours, retail and destination marketing are making assumptions about the year ahead as they plan for 2017. The interviews were conducted by Travel Weekly editor in chief and senior vice president Arnie Weissmann.
President, Carnival Cruise Line
The U.S. economy has been pretty steady in terms of expansion, and in
2016 I think consumer spending has followed along the growth of the
economy, at just under 4%. Projections right now are that we'll see that
continue in 2017.
I think the biggest wild card is with our new president-elect, Trump,
what kind of policy changes may occur that could accelerate some of
U.S. Travel is forecasting growth for travel that mirrors the broader
economy, and as we continue to hear that people are valuing experiences
over other kinds of purchases, that bodes well for travel.
The overall climate is certainly optimistic, that what we've seen in
2016 will continue in 2017, particularly for a brand such as Carnival,
which is very much focused on North America. You've heard me talk a lot
about Carnival being America's cruise line, partly because we have 14
U.S. homeports, which allows us to provide a level of convenience and
value to people who are cruising with us in the U.S. But it also speaks
to what our brand represents when we are in other markets such as
Australia, where we very much lean in to our American brand features and
2016 has been very strong. Our yields are up, and we have less
inventory remaining for sale going into 2017 as compared to a year ago.
Even though we launched the Vista in May and it spent most of the
season in the Med, it's just really arrived to its homeport in Miami
over Thanksgiving weekend. So we're really looking forward to
introducing the Vista, which we think is the next generation for
Carnival Cruise Line in terms of ship design and innovation. Many of the
features on that ship are quite unique and resonate with our guests,
and it is a really big development and focus for us and travel agents in
2017 in the U.S. market.
As in 2016, we're going to have eight drydocks in 2017. That's
significant as we roll out Fun Ship 2.0 features across our entire
fleet, a process that will finish by 2019. So it's not just about the
new ships, but also about the investment that we're making across the
fleet with features that we know resonate well with the guests. We're
even including the Carnival Breeze, which is our newest ship prior to
the Vista, to get a Pig & Anchor, our new Guy Fieri barbecue joint,
and the Alchemy Bar. And we're introducing Guy's Burgers and the Blue
Iguana to our Fantasy Class ships. Putting these new features into some
of the older ships in the fleet can also bring people into markets where
we're operating shorter cruises.
We've recently brought the Fantasy to Mobile, Ala. We've had a lot of
support from the city of Mobile. They have a new maritime museum near
the port it's a really cool museum great restaurants, too, and it's a
great music city. We're excited about our Carnival Live lineup for 2017.
That program has been very, very successful. Travel agents have told me
that it enables them to book some people who might otherwise be on the
fence about whether they think cruising is for them. A lot of these
cruise rookies begin to think about seeing Carrie Underwood or Tim
McGraw or Jay Leno or Little Big Town, being part of a live concert
where there are only 1,500 people in the audience. That's a compelling
value proposition and often a tipping point in the discussion with
We'll be doing more and more of our Carnival Journeys in 2017, which
are longer cruise itineraries, such as a 14-day Alaska cruise from Long
Beach, Calif., and 10- to 14-day Panama Canal cruises with departures
from Baltimore, Tampa and Galveston, Texas. We also announced recently
that we're expanding our Long Beach cruise terminal, and so that's going
to increase [square footage] by over 150%, so we will be able to debark
and embark guests in the terminal at the same time, and we're preparing
to bring larger ships into Long Beach.
And I would say the other thing is we're very cautiously optimistic
that we'll get the final approval we need for our Grand Bahama private
destination for Carnival, and we'll have the opportunity to really
develop that as the next generation of port experience.
Looking further ahead, we'll be getting an additional Vista-class
ship in both 2018 and 2019, and we'll be sending the Splendor to P&O
Australia [in 2019].
Regarding external events that might impact the cruise industry, I
think we've become pretty resilient in terms of how we manage through
those things. We see people make decisions about where they take their
ships based on some geopolitical factors, but I also think that American
travelers have become much more resilient and understand that these
issues can happen anywhere at any time, and we don't have complete
control over any of it.
I think that represents a shift in the American mindset. Some things
will likely happen; we can't predict what, but we can work to ensure
that our brand and our corporation are prepared with information to be
responsive and keep our guests and crew as safe and secure as possible.