Costa Cruises sets it’s sights on growth of the Arab market

Costa Cruises sets it’s sights on growth of the Arab market

Costa Cruises, the largest Italian travel group and Europe’s number one cruise line, is strengthening its presence in Dubai in order to develop the Arab cruise market.

Announced at a press conference held on board Costa Deliziosa on 25 April 2010, and addressed jointly by officials from Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) and Costa Cruises, the company announced its results for the 2009/2010 season in Dubai and presented its program for winter 2010/2011. It also outlined the first initiatives devised specifically to attract Arab consumers, thereby confirming the Italian company’s determination to provide cruises that are “made-to-measure” so as to satisfy the demands of its increasingly broad and international customer base.

“Following the huge success of the inauguration, on 23 February this year in Dubai, of the Costa Deliziosa, the first cruise ship ever to be inaugurated in an Arab country, our objective is to invest in Dubai, the Arabian Gulf and the Middle East not only as a regular destination for our ships, which we were the first in the world to do back in 2006, but also as a sourcing area so as to increase the number of cruisers choosing us for their vacations.” says Costa Cruises President Gianni Onorato. “Our target comprises both local customers and the numerous expatriates who live and work in these countries. This marks another step forward in our business development policy in the region, which we are implementing thanks to the support and assistance of the DTCM, and it also comes as further confirmation of our pioneering spirit and the international appeal of our product.”

Mr. Hamad bin Mejren, DTCM Executive Director Business Tourism, said: “We are delighted that Costa Cruises is opening a Dubai office to tap the huge growth potential of cruise tourism in the Arab world. We assure our wholehearted help and support to make this venture a real success. It will certainly give a boost to our efforts to promote cruise tourism and provide enough encouragement to other cruise industry players to utilise the strengths and growth opportunities that Dubai offers.”

The first innovation concerns the Italian company’s fleet which, with 14 ships in service and another two on order, is currently Europe’s largest and offers the chance each year to visit some 250 separate destinations all over the world.  It was announced that the Costa fleet members positioned in Dubai – the sister ships Costa Deliziosa and Costa Luminosa – will be offering Arab Guests a series of dedicated facilities:  two prayer rooms for males and females; regional and Arabic food & drinks; menus and signs on board in Arabic; Arab-speaking shipboard front line staff and Arabic TV and radio channels.

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The second innovation is the forthcoming opening of a representative office in Dubai – Arabian Gulf’s business and tourism hub.  United Arab Emirates is thus set to become the 17th country in the world to have a Costa branch office.  The Italian company will be represented in the UAE by Al Ketby Consultancy and the office will have a brief to promote and market Costa’s cruises in the Arabian Gulf and the Middle East, together with all the partners that Costa has worked with until now.

The Italian company will be targeting mainly families, couples and honeymooners from both the local and expatriate communities, as well as the many enterprises operating in the region that are potential incentive cruise customers.

To foster the growth of the Arab market, Costa has been studying specific promotional and marketing tools. During the winter 2009/10 season, shipboard visits were organised on the sister ships Costa Luminosa and Costa Deliziosa, which departed from Dubai once a week; these visits were specially arranged for local travel agents and categories of potential customers such as government representatives or the expatriate community, the aim being to provide hands-on experience of the ships and the Costa product.

Gulf travel agencies will soon be receiving a dedicated brochure featuring the most popular itineraries in this part of the world. 

Meanwhile, with regard to summer 2010, the focus is on 7-day cruises in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe.  More specifically, there are cruises on the Costa Pacifica departing from the Port of Rome (Civitavecchia) with stopovers in Savona (Italy), Barcelona (Spain), Palma de Mallorca (Balearic Islands, Spain), Tunis (Tunisia), Malta and Catania (Italy); cruises on the Costa Concordia out of Savona with port calls in Naples (Italy), Palermo (Italy), Tunis, Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona and Marseilles (France); cruises on the Costa Serena with departures from Venice (Italy), bound for Greece and Turkey, and calling at Bari (Italy), Olympia (Greece), Izmir (Turkey), Istanbul (Turkey) and Dubrovnik (Croatia); and cruises on the Costa Fortuna, again using Venice as the homeport, with calls at Bari, Olympia, the Greek islands of Santorini, Mykonos and Rhodes, and Dubrovnik.  With regards to Northern Europe, the Costa Deliziosa will be operating out of Copenhagen on seven-day cruises to the Norwegian fjords and Baltic cities (Tallinn in Estonia, St. Petersburg in Russia, Helsinki in Finland, and Stockholm in Sweden).

As far as concerns winter 2010/11, the Costa brochure proposes cruises in the Arabian Gulf, the Far East and the Indian Ocean.  Gulf cruises will be provided once more by the Costa Deliziosa and Costa Luminosa, with departures from Dubai and stopovers at Muscat (Oman), Fujairah, Abu Dhabi (UAE) and Bahrain.  As for the Far East, the highlight is the new 14-day itinerary out of Singapore on the Costa Classica, taking in some of the loveliest places in Malaysia and Thailand; this cruise can also be broken down into two seven-day segments.  Last, but not least, the 14-day Indian Ocean cruises will be sailing from Mauritius on board the Costa Romantica and visiting the Seychelles, Madagascar and Reunion. 

For these cruises, guests from Dubai and the Gulf Region will be able to take advantage both of direct flights to the ports of departure and of special low fares.  In particular, for families there is the “Family Value” promotion (Guests under 18 travelling in the same cabin as two adults cruise for free; special rates for families travelling in separate cabins, one for the adults and the other for the children; the possibility to have multicabins booking).

Costa Cruises’ leadership in Dubai and the Gulf Region as a whole is confirmed by the company’s results for the 2009/10 winter season.  Europe’s number one cruise company has deployed two ships departing from Dubai every week – the Costa Luminosa and Costa Deliziosa (both 92,600 gross tonnage and 2,826 total guests), namely Costa’s “top of the range” offer, the most exclusive and innovative members of the fleet.  They have been operating on 7-day cruises calling at Muscat (Oman), Fujairah, Abu Dhabi (UAE) and Bahrain:  the Costa Luminosa from 12 December 2009 to 10 April 2010; the Costa Deliziosa, after her inauguration on 23 February, from 14 March to 9 May 2010.  In addition, the Costa Europa (54,800 gross tonnage and 1830 total guests) offered eight new 18-day cruises from Savona to Dubai and Dubai to Savona.

Costa’s ships recorded some 140,000 passenger movements in Dubai in winter 2009/10, up 40% compared to 2008/09, with a total of 32 port calls.  This traffic generated revenue for the local economy estimated at around 12 million pounds* in 2009/10, derived from direct spending by Costa’s Guests, shoreside excursions, transport, port fees and expenditure on food & beverage.  In winter 2010/2011 a further increase is forecast with 31 port calls and 150,000 passenger movements, thanks to the deployment on seven-day Gulf cruises of the Costa Luminosa and Costa Deliziosa.  The Costa Luminosa will be departing on Mondays from 29 November 2010 to 21 March 2011; the Costa Deliziosa every Sunday from 19 December 2010 to 10 April 2011.

Costa Cruises – together with AIDA Cruises, the German brand and affiliate of the Costa Crociere S.p.A. Group – was the first company to market regular cruises in the Arabian Gulf, turning Dubai into a major cruise destination and contributing to its growth as a tourist resort.  Costa Cruises’ operations in the region were launched in winter 2006/2007 with the deployment of one ship – the Costa Classica (53,000 gross tonnage and 1,680 total Guests) – and approximately 44,000 passenger movements in Dubai.

In addition to the Costa brand ships, an AIDA Cruises ship – the AIDAdiva (69,200 gross tonnage and 2500 total Guests) – called in Dubai 20 times during winter 2009/2010.  In all (considering both the Costa Cruises and Aida Cruises brands), ships belonging to the Costa Crociere Group made 42 stopovers in Dubai this past winter, with a total of around 220,000 passenger movements.

*Figure based partly on the equivalent spending of cruisers in European ports according to the European Cruise Council’s estimate for 2008