Azamara to grow fleet ‘as soon as possible’, says new chief

The new Azamara chief has hailed the performance of the UK market and hinted the line is likely to grow its fleet “as soon as possible”.

Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, Dondra Ritzenthaler, who took up her position as Azamara chief executive earlier this month, said she is “100% focused” on increasing the line’s four-ship fleet imminently, saying: “When I get my heart set on something, I don’t give up.”

Azamara has historically bought and refurbished ships, but Ritzenthaler suggested the line might build a new vessel which would be a similar size to the others in the fleet, catering for roughly 700 passengers, and sail in destinations currently not served by any of Azamara’s other ships.

“Our goal is that we grow as soon as possible,” she said. “We want to grow to being more than four ships and I ideally want to grow the brand so that we can go to other [destinations] because I don’t want to give any of our guests the opportunity to go somewhere that we’re not.”

Ritzenthaler went on to pledge her commitment to the trade, saying agents are the “pros” that will help grow the UK’s market share.

Globally, 85% of Azamara’s product is sold through travel agents, Ritzenthaler said, but in the UK it is 90%, with the UK trade over indexing compared to other markets.

Ritzenthaler said North America accounts for 60% of the line’s sales with the international market mainly based in the UK and Australia, and she would “love” to see the UK increase its market share, which might be done through an increase in packaging, she added.

“The UK accounts for the majority of that 40% [sold outside of North America] and I would love to see it grow,” she said. “We can’t do this without our travel advisors. They are the value interpreters.

“We are definitely going to get more and more into packaging and, in this market, it’s massive. The more we can make it all-encompassing for the guests and for the travel advisors, the easier we are do to business with.”

Growing Azamara’s customer base is a key focus, Ritzenhaler said, and the line’s strategy is to target new-to-brand customers over those who are new to cruise.

“We so value our loyal guests and we would certainly take first-to-cruise [customers], but first to brand is the right strategy for us,” she said.

“Those people who have been on a cruise and liked it but now want to get into this authentic, amazing destination immersion experience, is where we come in.”

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