Carnival CEO Weinstein: Advisors can help us attract first-time cruisers: Travel Weekly

FORT LAUDERDALE — Josh Weinstein, Carnival Corp.’s new CEO, wants to get travel advisors more involved in helping the company’s nine brands attract new cruisers, calling agents “our voice to first-timers.”

Weinstein urged travel advisors at the opening session of Travel Weekly’s annual CruiseWorld conference here for their thoughts and feedback on attracting new-to-cruise customers, saying the cruise industry is “virtually back to full strength” coming out of the pandemic.

“It’s a chance to collaborate with you and hear your ideas for how we can all work together more effectively,” he said during an on-stage interview with editor in chief Arnie Weissmann in which he asked the audience of travel advisors to reach out with ideas on how to improve communication channels and take advantage of opportunities. “How do you think we can attract more first-time cruisers?”

The request comes weeks after Weinstein announced a goal of increasing Carnival’s first-time customers and boosting marketing spending heading into Wave season.

“You are our voice to first timers,” he said. “You dispel cruise myths. You hold their hands as you simplify the booking process and demystify what can seem like an overwhelming decision-making experience.”

Travel agents can guide clients to the “right brand at the right time for the right occasion,” Weinstein added, which is important for a company with nine brands offering different experiences and destinations. When clients are paired well and the cruise company provides a quality experience, “we are building lasting memories and recruit lifelong advocates for cruising,” he said.

Weinstein took over as Carnival Corp.’s CEO this summer following the retirement of Arnold Donald. 

‘We have the right momentum’

His plea comes as cruise company stocks prices have sunk, including Carnival’s, as they muscle their way back from the pandemic.

Weinstein said that he had given up trying to understand Wall Street. After years of prepping for quarterly earnings calls, he said it was easy to predict stock results only to be wrong, even before the pandemic.

“There are so many times I think, ‘wow, this is a great story. Our stock is going to go through the roof,’ and it just plummeted or vice versa,” he said. “I think Wall Street is happy with the fact that we have the right momentum. We keep closing the gap.”

That is certainly the case with occupancy, he said. Occupancy was down about 50 points in Q1 of 2022 compared with 2019, Weinstein said. He expects it to be down 20 points from 2019 by the end of Q4.

“On average, 10 points we’re making up every single quarter,” he said. “It’s here but Wall Street wants us to get here faster.”

And the company’s cruise brands continue to increase capacity, with 7 million passenger cruise days in Q1 compared to almost 18 million in Q3. 

What travel advisors want

Asked about how relationships with travel advisors may change under his leadership, Weinstein said he wanted to see it “get amplified” and is thinking of how to redouble efforts to ensure advisors understand what each of Carnival’s brands stand for.

He said agents tell him they want more responsiveness, agility and for “the lines of communication to be really open,” especially in the current business climate that has become the backdrop of the travel industry.

“The world is a really volatile place right now, and I don’t think that’s going to change,” he said.

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