econostrum.info : What are the most popular routes for your passengers in the Mediterranean?
Georges Azouze : French cruise passengers in general love the Mediterranean. More than 70% of them feel this way. The favourite routes are oriented towards Italy, Sicily, Malta, Greece and the Greek Islands, Turkey and Israel. Further away, the Black Sea also attracts a lot of French people. French preferences are therefore focussed on routes in the Eastern Mediterranean.
What parameters do you take account of when constructing an itinerary? To what extent does fuel now influence the number of stops?
G.A.: An international company that welcomes aboard guests of many nationalities must choose routes that can satisfy them all.
Main source markets have priority on both ports of call and on the beginnings and the ends of itineraries. The choices of the start and end are often based on three main criteria:
- accessibility, in terms of road networks, railways and airports
- potential tourist attractions
- the potential for regional clientele (i.e. tourists residing within 2 to 3 hours' drive from the port).
Fuel does of course also need to be considered when choosing a route; and this has now become one of the most important elements in terms of cost.
differentiation through fleets
In order to build customer loyalty there seems to be a need to constantly renew; what are thus the “new destinations”?
G.A.: We are enriching our offer by diversifying the duration of cruises: Marseille is offering Costa itinerary durations of between 3 and 10 nights; without forgetting the 100 day “World Tour” or the transatlantic cruises.
We have also developed new cruise lines in the Greek Islands, with departures from Rhodes, and chartering flights to get there from Paris and the rest of France. This offer is available throughout the summer and autumn. We are also working on having some more unusual stops when possible.
Because of the size of ships, companies tend to call at the same ports, because those ports are most able to accommodate them. How can you then differentiate yourselves from your competitors?
G.A.: It’s through the diversity of itineraries and lengths of cruises - and therefore in the segmentation of cruises and clientele- that we differentiate ourselves. The TAAJ cruise on the Costa Voyager is 100% French speaking and is differentiated as much by the style of the cruise as by its itinerary. We also differentiate ourselves through our choice of fleet that is different to other companies because of its architecture and decoration.
How do you manage risk in the Mediterranean? Does political instability hinder the development of cruises in the Mediterranean and the diversification of routes?
G.A.: Political instability is of course an element that considerably limits creativity when researching new cruise routes. Unfortunately Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, and Syria are an illustration of this.