While the cruise industry is increasingly global, the foreseeable growth potential is first and foremost in Europe, according to Pier Luigi Foschi, chairman and CEO of Costa Crociere, overseeing the worldwide operations of Costa, in addition to AIDA Cruises and Iberocruceros.
At Royal Caribbean Cruises, Michael Bayley, executive vice president international, said he sees growth opportunities everywhere. At the same time, he cautioned that numbers can be a bit misleading, when Europe claims a growth rate of 10 percent on 5 million passengers, and North America 5 percent on 11 million passengers.
Meanwhile, Europe is a winner. “There is no way European market growth will recede, and some day it will be equal to the North American market,” Bayley said.
In the near term, Europe will continue to grow, according to Steven Wieczynski, director and analyst at the financial services firm of Stifel Nicolaus. “There are still markets there that are completely under-penetrated. There is much more potential in the UK, Germany and Italy; we will see these markets continue to grow.”
Responsible for the Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara brands, Bayley said that the big opportunity will someday come in Asia and most likely in China. “China is the sleeper (market),” he said, “and represents a big opportunity, but you need a strong stomach.”
Foschi added: “China is in a very early (market) development stage and is difficult to crack.” He said that he views China as a market to be developed long term.
Wieczynski commented that Asia has the potential to be a “home run.” But he added a word of caution: “It may be a slow process.”
Other growth markets identified by Bayley and Foschi are South America and Australia.
Also maintaining a seasonal presence in North America, Foschi said that the Caribbean issue is one of too much capacity during the winter.
A wild card in the Caribbean is Cuba. “If Cuba opens up, it will give the Caribbean a nice boost,” Wieczynski added. “It will help the North American market and reenergize the Caribbean.”