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
Simon Calder is Travel Editor at Large for The Independent, writing a weekly column, various articles and features as well as filming a weekly video diary. Every Sunday afternoon, Simon presents the UK's only radio travel phone-in programme called The LBC Travel Show with Simon Calder (97.3 FM). He is a regular guest on national TV, often seen on BBC Breakfast, Daybreak, ITV News and Sky News. He is often interviewed on BBC Radio, particularly for BBC Radio 4’s You & Yours programme and BBC Five Live.
Tuesday 08 May 2012
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."
- 1 Easter egg hunt horror as mother finds dead body under deck of house
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 Unbeliebable: The White House offer 'no comment' to anti-Justin Bieber petition
- 4 Loch Ness Monster found on Apple Maps?
- 5 How We Met: Alison Moyet & Emma Kennedy: 'I knew we'd be friends because she was happy to make a prat of herself'
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
'Sinful': Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy comes under attack
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
Refugee facing deportation from Sweden saved by fellow passengers refusing to let plane leave
Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: There are many small development projects in ...
Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Kaya Responsible Travel offer a variety of sp...
Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Volunteer with Kaya in Borneo and work on a p...
Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: If you have a passion for elephants and want ...