MSC Cruises has big plans on the horizon for 2020 and beyond – and when it comes to delivering on travellers’ dreams, travel agents will be front and centre in that strategy.
The cruise line welcomed Toronto-area agents to an informative dinner session last night (Feb. 5), outlining the cruise line’s offerings and plans for the coming years. Agents also got the chance to speak directly to Achille Staiano, MSC’s vice-president of global sales, who is based at the company’s Switzerland headquarters.
Staiano told PAX that Canada remains a top market for MSC, so much so that a Canadian office and bilingual call centre were opened last year to great response from the trade, with plans to expand the office to more than 30 employees by the end of Q1 this year.
“The response has been excellent,” Staiano said. “The travel agents have always been very patient with us. They have manifested an appreciation for our product; sometimes going through our U.S. office was not easy. They understand that MSC is investing in and committing to Canada; we want to have a wider reach to the agencies, provide them the necessary information and ensure they can work with MSC in an easy and accessible way.”
Staiano said that while MSC will take a national approach in terms of its Canadian sales strategy with the establishment of the Canadian office, having a presence will allow the cruise line to more easily focus on regional markets within the country, from Quebec to Western Canada, adding that Vancouver is among the top markets in Canada.
“There are certain regions that need more attention than others so we need to be more present there, but the approach is nation-wide so that we can provide the service and grow our brand everywhere,” he said. “Having an office makes this easier by not only having a presence, but it allows us to grow in the region by reaching more partners.”
Between 2017 and 2030, MSC plans to bring on up to 27 new ships, a 20 billion EUR investment in the fleet, Staiano said, as the line eyes welcoming 5 million annual passengers by 2030.
And through all the development, MSC will be keeping the environmental impact of cruising in mind by creating the greenest fleet possible, Staiano said.
The latest phase began recently with the signing of a contract with Chantiers de l’Atlantique, for construction of MSC’s third and fourth LNG-powered MSC World Class ships, reinforcing a focus on the development and utilization of next-generation environmental technologies, to be delivered in 2025 and 2027.
The first of the initial two ships in the class, the MSC Europa, is currently under construction at Chantiers’ shipyard in Saint-Nazaire and is due to enter service in 2022.
MSC and Chantiers de l’Atlantique are also working on two additional newbuild projects, including four vessels in a new prototype class of LNG-powered cruise ships and another prototype ship class concept that will explore opportunities in wind power and other advanced technologies.
That green approach has also been applied to MSC’s Ocean Cay, a private island in Bahamas that opened to guests earlier this winter. The site, a former dumping ground for construction materials, has seen the revitalization of coral and other marine life since its redevelopment by MSC, Staiano said.
Ian Patterson, MSC’s country manager for Canada, told agents that the popular MSC Book program will soon be available in French, while an upgraded version of the MSC Academy training program – MSC Masters – will also be rolling out later this year.
And while an in-person ship visit may not be possible for every agent, Staiano told PAX that a solution is in the works, in the form of virtual reality tours across the entire MSC fleet.
“It allows everyone the possibility to explore our ships without necessarily going there in person,” he said. “Even in the centre of Canada where there’s no water, we’ll be able to bring the ships to our partners.”
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