Reinventing destinations for cruising

Vasundhara Gupta, Business Development and Marketing Head, Lotus Aero Enterprises (GSA for Costa Cruises), discusses its latest flagship Costa Toscana in Dubai from December 2022 to March 2023. For this, they have launched a simple rate sheet with good commission structures keeping the travel agents in mind and a great starting price.

Hazel Jain

Tell us a little bit about the Dubai itinerary that you are currently promoting.

Costa Cruises is excited to be deploying its latest flagship Costa Toscana, which is a large 185,000 tonnes ship with over 6000 guest capacity, in Dubai from December 2022 to March 2023. Costa Toscana additionally is one of the first few ships which is fuelled with LNG, making it environment friendly and a lot more sustainable. The itineraries ex Dubai or Abu Dhabi will have options of sailing from 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 nights. While the 2 & 3 nights itineraries cover mainly UAE ports, the 4,5 & 7 nights cover three countries: UAE, Oman and Qatar. Dubai has always been a popular destination among Indians, but these cruise itineraries reinvent the destination and we believe that itineraries ex Dubai and Abu Dhabi will be the next big cruising destination for Indians. In terms of offers to travel agents, we have launched a simple rate sheet with good commission structures and a great starting price.

Tell us about the safety measures that Costa has put in place for this ship.

We are one of the first cruise companies to have obtained the Biosafety Trust Certification from RINA and we are carefully following the safety guidelines set down by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). Additionally, we have introduced measures like Staggering boarding.

What is the marketing strategy that you are deploying for Costa Cruises in India as its GSA?

We have always believed in reaching out to the market, but since the travel trade has gone through so many changes after COVID, we have made sure to take part in trade events to not only connect with the trade, but also educate and equip them. We are additionally taking part in tourism body roadshows. Also, for ease, we have introduced INR rate sheets for our Dubai sailings.

Have you already started seeing bookings on this ship from India?

Yes, we are seeing a good number of MICE clients, who have already booked our Dubai sailings. It’s encouraging to see that those MICE numbers are also for larger sized groups.

Are you focussing on the MICE and wedding segment for this or any other Costa itineraries?

Yes, we have always tapped the MICE and wedding segment aggressively for all our short itineraries in Dubai, Europe and Singapore. MICE events on a Cruise are not only easy to handle logistically, but are great value for money vis a vis land, as cruise is an all-inclusive destination. Most of the MICE groups combine Work and Leisure activities on the ship. In terms of weddings, in 2017, Lotus implemented the largest ever wedding at sea of Sana Adel, whereby Costa Fascinosa, a 3,800 guest capacity, was chartered exclusively for four nights in the Mediterranean seas.

Share your perspective on the future of ocean cruising post COVID and the kind of potential India has for this product.

The cruising market in India is only set to grow, since India is the third-largest coastline in the world, Indians have a natural affinity towards the sea and activities around it. Since cruise liners have now started having itineraries closer to home this experience has become real. Moreover, the cruise product has everything that an Indian wants.

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