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Wednesday, 21 December, 2016, 12 : 46 PM [IST]

Ark Travels, NCLH to aggressively target sub-agents in India

Mumbai-based Ark Travels, a Preferred Sales Agent (PSA) for Norwegian Cruise Line has strengthened ties with Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH), the parent cruise liner. Ark Travels will undertake activities to promote and sell upper premium and luxury products of NCLH effectively among its sub-agents across India. Ark Travels hosted a cocktail & networking dinner to appreciate NCLH, along with its sub-agents in Mumbai recently.

Ark Travels will leverage its pan-India network of over 300 travel agents, built over 20 years, to sell NCLH’s Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. For instance, the current product portfolio of Ark Travels for Norwegian Cruise Line includes NCL Epic, NCL Pearl, NCL Jade, NCL Jewel, NCL Getaway, NCL Star and NCL Sky.

The new initiative by both parties will see jointly planned roadshows and presentations, familiarisation trips for sub-agents, marketing collaterals and joint meetings to attract corporate clients from India.

Felix Chan, Vice President of Sales Asia, NCLH, said, “We have had a very successful partnership with Ark Travels in promoting and selling Norwegian Cruise Line. Moving forward, we will strengthen our partnership with Ark Travels across contemporary, upper premium, and luxury segments in India. Our joint education and promotional efforts with Ark Travels will be more important than ever, as most Indian consumers have not yet fully realised the value and benefits of luxury cruising. I look forward to exploring these new business opportunities with Ark Travels together in the coming months.”

“Ark Travels is already our top agent for NCL in India and we want Ark Travels to be our top agent for Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises as well. Ark Travels needs to focus on the upper premium and luxury segments in India in order to sell Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises effectively. We need to work with Ark to reach out to a niche segment of sub-agents who have proven track record in reaching out to the desired clientele in India,” Chan added.

“NCLH’s Oceania Cruises and Reagent Seven Seas will work as icing on cake for Ark Travels’ product portfolio. As we are geared to welcome the upcoming holiday season, we anticipate a 15% increase in inquiries for NCLH products as compared to last year. NCLH group’s fleet of 20 cruise ships along with our existing cruise and resort products will further cement our position in the luxury cruise and holiday segment in India. Our strategy would be to take the NCLH brands and Regent brands to all four metro cities and Tier-II cities like Pune, Nashik, Nagpur, Kholapur, Ludhiana and Chandigarh. For NCL we’ll hugely target Weddings, Katha groups, MICE and families. Currently, on NCL we are also promoting 3rd and 4th person free for European cruise itineraries, whereas, we will purely target luxury customers for Regent Seven Seas,” Kishan Biyani, MD, Ark Travels Pvt Ltd.

Additionally, NCL Star and Oceania Nautica made a port of call for the first time in Mumbai after 13 years. Mumbai also welcomed Seven Seas Voyager, a first ship of Regent Seven Seas brand to be docked on any Indian port.

With increase in disposable incomes and the urge to explore the world, India has emerged as a lucrative market for cruise liners. This segment is further poised to grow multifold with a variety of products on offer and Indians willing to travel to the nearby ports to undertake a cruise vacation. Sailing in this direction, Nasdaq-listed Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd (NCLH) started advancing in the Indian waters independently with a presence in Mumbai since end-2015.

On his recent visit to India, Felix Chan, Vice President of Sales Asia of Miami-headquartered NCLH, said, “NCL is familiar in India because of our long association with Star Cruises. With a strength of a 24-vessel fleet, we offer three distinct brands — Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Sea Cruises. Hence, providing wider choices to our customers.”

The contemporary NCL brand is an apt bid for multi-generational travel, while Regent and Ocenia are positioned as luxury and upper premium brands, respectively. “NCL has sailings across the world, with half of the ships now in the European waters. We are making efforts to bring our ships for making ports of call in India. With NCL, guests can enjoy free-style cruising on large ships ranging from 2,000 to 4,200 berths.”

The vessel size of Regent is smaller with 490 to 750 berths, and Oceania offers small to mid-size ships with berths ranging from 684 to 1,250. “The Regent brand is targeted at sophisticated travellers who are looking for a complete luxury experience. An added advantage with Regent is the shore excursions are covered in the cruise fare. Guests can enjoy personalised service and the most-inclusive luxury experience with butler service, and the best dining experiences.”

With world renowned Chef Jacques Pepin onboard, Oceania Cruises offers an exquisite cuisine at sea. “One can undertake discovery tours on Oceania Cruises which includes sourcing of local ingredients and undertaking cooking lessons. The Oceania ships make calls on interesting ports and boutique villages which are otherwise not covered by larger vessels. Therefore, the Oceania experience is for the matured traveller for its rich itineraries.”

Expansion in India
The NCL brand has a strong customer base in India.“Efforts have now been stepped up with our trade partners to reach newer markets. Therefore, we would like to invest more time, effort and resources in promoting Regent and Ocenia in India. A part of this exercise is training the agents so that they can make their customers aware about the need to pay more for a better product. Although the number of Indians opting for luxury and upper premium cruises is very small, there is immense potential.” In fact, Chan believes that India is now ready for mature cruise itineraries of Regent Seven Seas, given the positive response it has received from the trade community, especially smaller agents with high-net worth clientele.

At this point of time, NCL is looking at gaining a stronger foothold in India by working with the travel trade. “Asian customers are destination driven rather than brand driven; they prefer a better travel experience. Therefore, we will undertake sales education on a large scale, including the Tier-II and III cities along with the metro gateways. Besides, we will work towards increasing our manpower in India to meet the growing need.”

An important aspect of growing NCLH’s share in India is redesigning the entire distribution network. “We will look at expanding our network of agents, which will enable us to penetrate into the smaller cities, where there is huge market, still untapped.”
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