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Royal Caribbean sees Middle East comeback soon

Cruise ship operator said last year it would exit the Dubai waters

Gulf News

Dubai: Royal Caribbean International, which saw its last ship sail out of Dubai in April this year, is hoping to make a comeback into the region in the next couple of years, according to its top executive in the region.

The global cruise ship operator said last year it would exit the Dubai waters after ending its 2013 season, owing to thinning demand for its itineraries in the recent period, hitting the company’s profitability.

“We are pushing for coming back into this market – not for Winter 2013-14 – but we are pushing for potentially 2014-15. We have a lot of support from different areas of our business about this miss but ultimately, it is the company’s decision as we have to look at the profitability. So if the company decides a more profitable location is somewhere else then, so be it,” Helen Beck, Royal Caribbean International’s Regional Director for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), told Gulf News in an interview alongside the Arabian Travel Market.

“The season we had here last year [winter of 2011-12] with our ship, Brilliance of the Seas, wasn’t very profitable for us. As a publicly listed company, one of our key goals is to make sure we are as profitable as possible. So a decision was made to take the ship away from here and put it back into the Caribbean. But while it’s a disappointing decision, I understand my company’s position,” she added.

However, owing to a strong season this year, the company might be encouraged to reconsider its decision to make a comeback into this region. As Beck says: “While the battle is lost, the war isn’t.”

Commenting on RCI’s move, Hamad Bin Mejren, Executive Director-Business Tourism at DTCM (Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing), said he is confident of RCI’s return to this market. “Sometimes the companies have their own strategic plans. But I am very confident that with our support and efforts they will come back very soon,” he told Gulf News.

Asked if the Arab Spring had a role to play in the company’s decision to pull out of this region, Beck said: “Not really. It was purely and simply due to profitability reasons,” adding that the competition threat in the segment also had a role to play to an extent. “There was a 25 per cent increase in the capacity owing to more vessels present here by other operators such as MSC Cruises and Costa, for instance,” she pointed out. “So the competitive threat had more to do with our decision to pullout rather than the Arab Spring.”