Business? It's never been better, says Costa cruise line boss Pier Luigi Foschi

CEO tells Simon Calder he is optimistic as stricken vessel's sister ship launched

Only four months after the shipwreck of the Costa Concordia off the coast of Italy, the company's chief executive has made a remarkable claim: that confidence has already returned and that bookings are ahead of forecasts.

Pier Luigi Foschi told The Independent that after a "pause" in sales immediately after the loss, the company is prospering. He also rejected predictions of the cruise line's decline. But senior travel industry figures in the UK immediately questioned his optimism.

Thirty-two people died, and more than 4,000 passengers and crew abandoned ship, when the Concordia struck a rock off the Tuscan island of Giglio on 13 January. Two more people are missing. Recovery and clean-up operations will continue for several months.

The vessel's master, Captain Francesco Schettino, is under house arrest; he faces criminal charges including manslaughter and abandoning the ship as she began to sink, before the passengers had been evacuated.

In the wake of the Concordia shipwreck, bookings across the cruise business slumped. But Mr Foschi said: "Starting from the middle of March we resumed our marketing activity. Bookings now are higher than we forecast, and higher than they were a year ago. The [customers] who knew us in the past have been loyal."

He was speaking in Venice, after Costa Cruises took delivery of the latest addition to the fleet. The Fascinosa is a sister ship to Concordia, carrying a similar number of passengers. Fascinosa's maiden voyage sails from Venice on Friday to Croatia, Greece, Turkey and Israel. Seven new safety procedures have been introduced to address the shortcomings exposed by the loss of the Concordia.

The new ship is fitted with a system to alert shore-based officials to any deviation from the proposed course. Officers on the bridge are empowered to question the captain's instructions. Many Concordia passengers who had to abandon ship at night had not received a safety briefing. "Guest emergency training procedures" will now begin on shore.

Mr Foschi said that the impact of the Concordia sinking varied sharply from one market to another: "In Italy there has been no loss of confidence in Costa. France has been good to us. In Germany there was a pause but it's picking up again." Addressing British travellers, he said: "Come with confidence. This was a single, tragic accident unfortunately due to human error."

Stephen Bath, managing director of Bath Travel and former president of Abta, questioned Mr Foschi's optimism about forward bookings: "They've had some rotten luck. This ship dominated the headlines in the UK for three weeks. In Spain, or Italy, the news must have had even more impact."

He described the post of marketing manager for Costa as "the most uphill job in travel. The brand name must be shot to pieces."

Costa Cruises is Europe's biggest cruise line – larger than P&O Cruises and Cunard combined. All three are part of Carnival, the world's leading cruise conglomerate.

Some cruise specialists in the UK have reported sluggish sales, with passengers booking late and waiting for bargains. While the customary starting point for pricing a cruise on a good-quality ship has been £100 per person per night, prices have fallen sharply. One cruise agent said: "The magic number for a 14-night cruise is now £999." This corresponds to £71 per person per night, although many passengers will pay more for higher-grade cabins. Mr Foschi said: "We are very confident – we are seeing encouraging signs."

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special
tvNick Frost, Natalie Gumede and Michael Troughton step up
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Beard, Ben Schnetzer, Douglas Booth and Jack Farthing in ‘The Riot Club’
filmReview: Sheer nastiness of Riot Club takes you aback
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week