Carnival Corp. CEO Talks Benefits of Cruise Tourism, Brexit and Plans for Ocean Medallion

October 10, 2017
Venice aerial shot

(1:35 p.m. EDT) -- Cruise lines need to do more to educate locals about the benefits of cruise tourism in order to counter the effects of "overtourism" Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald believes.

The sheer volume of visitors in popular ports such as Venice, Barcelona and Dubrovnik have led to protests by locals who are concerned that tourists are destroying the very thing they are coming to see.

However, it is cruise which has been made a symbol of overtourism due to the size of the ships and the number of cruise passengers visiting in one go, said Donald, speaking at the Abta Convention in the Azores.

This is despite the fact cruise passengers make up a tiny percentage of overall tourist numbers -- in Venice it's just 1.5 million out of an overall total of 24 million.

"We have done a good job with governments, but we have to do a better job with locals," Donald said.

"We have to lead by example and lead very visibly by making sure people know what is good tourist behavior."

He added: "Overtourism is an issue and it could be a growing issue."

Donald also spoke about the expansion of the cruise sector in terms of more ships, but explained it is "capacity restrained" -- i.e. the shipyards cannot build ships fast enough to satisfy demand.

"Every market in the world is underpenetrated in terms of cruise. To put this into perspective, the cruise sector as a whole has 2 percent of the hotel sector globally.

"We are capacity restrained. We are seeing a lot of capacity come into the cruise sector, but the most the industry can grow in a year is 6 or 7 percent. The shipyards are full."

Donald said this lack of capacity could lead to an increase in fares, but also an expansion of existing shipyards.

Brexit Could be a Benefit to Cruise Lines

Brexit could benefit U.K. cruise lines, like P&O Cruises, which price their fares in pounds, according to the CEO of Carnival Corp.

Said Donald, "It's not that Brexit is not important and significant, but it's the normal state for our business.

"We expect things to go wrong and we plan for that. In some ways [Brexit] may even help U.K. brands, especially P&O Cruises as they price in pounds sterling."

The Ocean Medallion

Princess Cruises Gears Up to Test Ocean Medallion

Carnival Corp.'s Ocean Medallion technology needs to be tested on its Princess Cruises brand passengers before it is rolled out across the fleet, according to Donald.

"It's fantastic, but it's different. However, many people think it's super cool; we must make sure this resonates with Princess Cruises' guests before we roll it across the fleet.

"We still have passengers on some of our brands who would rather not be connected, and we have to respect that too."

The medallions -- which launch on Regal Princess November 2017 -- enable luggage tracking and the ability to create pre-cruise profiles. The profiles will help tailor the cruise experience to each passenger by alerting them to activities they might enjoy and allowing them to order drinks to their location, as well as notifying crew members of dietary needs or other special requests. However, some people might find them too evasive and can always opt out.

Donald said the refurbishing being carried out to implement the new technology had a side benefit of drastically improving Wi-Fi onboard:

"Installing this new technology means we can upgrade our existing infrastructure, so we can enhance what we offer whether or not you choose to use the medallion."

Donald confirms to Cruise Critic the Caribbean open for business.

--by Adam Coulter, Managing Editor, UK