The introduction of fathom marks a sea change for Carnival Corporation. but will its launch cause ripples throughout the industry, Sam Ballard asks.
What I find most interesting about fathom – Carnival Plc’s new social impact travel brand – is its ambition. Away from all of the PR and doubtless good work that those on board will do, fathom is designed to get new to cruise Millennials into Carnival’s cruise funnel.
That may sound like a cynical assessment but in fact it is a hugely important move for the industry as a whole.
The amount of innovation we are seeing on board ships is amazing. The level of luxury is industry-leading and the quality of a cruise holiday is unmatchable. However, despite what those who have cruised before know, the industry still battles with an image problem. A cruise remains the best-kept secret on the holiday market.
This is why Carnival’s move to attract Millennials is so important.
So, what do we know about Millennials and just why are they being feted? At the recent Clia UK & Ireland Selling Cruise Conference a number of speakers mentioned the group. We learnt that they are typically born between 1980 and the mid-2000s, are the first generation to have been brought up with the internet and, when it comes to holidays, are firmly entrenched in the idea of having experiences. These are three factors that could almost be brand pillars for Carnival’s new company.
Fathom will start its cruises in April 2016 with sailings to the Dominican Republic on board what is currently P&O’s Adonia. According to the company’s press release fathom will “offer consumers authentic, meaningful impact travel experiences to work alongside locals as they tackle community needs”.
Depending on their own “skills” passengers, who will embark in Miami, will choose from a number of social impact activities and experiences both on board and on shore.
Carnival believes that roughly 40 per cent of fathom’s future passengers would not otherwise have booked a cruise. They are being aimed at the North American, British and Australian markets for passengers between 20 and 60. It is a heavily disguised new-to-cruise product. On fathom’s website the word “cruise” is only actually mentioned once, in a reference to P&O.
What the launch of fathom does for UK travel agents is give them a fresh angle. It is one thing to sell on the back of innovation but from conversations we have had with agents, that doesn’t always bust consumers’ cruising myths. The area where they see most success when converting new to cruise passengers is through experiential holidays. That could be destination, food or social impact travel. One thing is for sure, Carnival has proved that it is willing to invest in the future of the cruise industry and I’m willing to bet that a couple of those fathom passengers might just find that cruising isn’t as bad as they first thought.