There’s an interesting article in today’s on-line Daily Telegraph, which is based on comments from David Dingle. He admits that he has ‘restructured them out of a job’. He says that for some years he has been centralising the functions of the two lines, including operations, pricing and finance. That left marketing, he said – he wanted people who were real specialists in marketing, distribution and revenue management, whereas Carol Marlow and Peter Shanks were described as general managers. He goes on to say, however, that he has made sure they have been “well looked-after”.
David Dingle is now keen to recruit two marketing directors to the two lines. He wants these new managers to expand the range of people cruising, particularly to attract younger passengers – the current average age for the two lines being mid- to high-50s. Interestingly he sees use of social media and the internet generally as being part of their remit, and presumably we can expect to see a greater use of these new channels in future.
There have been a number of comments to this, both in the article itself and on various on-line forums. Many of them suggest that he may be mistaken in thinking that there is an untapped market in the UK of 30- and 40-somethings who can be converted into cruise customers; one reason for this may be it’s the oldsters who have got, or have retained, reasonable amounts of disposable income in the current troubled economic times. Not many 30 or 40-year olds have paid off their mortgage, for instance, whereas many 60-year olds will have, or only be making small payments on mortgages taken out decades ago for small amounts. And there won’t be many 60-year olds helping a son or daughter through university, whereas that’s a burden increasingly being faced by 40-year olds. One might also wonder about the closure of the Ocean Village ‘casual’ cruise line: without wanting to make too many assumptions, my feeling would be that a younger customer demographic would be less interested in the formal aspects of cruising with P&O or Cunard, and of course it’s exactly that formality that does appeal to the current set of grey-haired customers (including Val and myself, by the way). Even if they do manage to attract new customers I would have thought he needs to retain the existing ones – after all, they’re currently filling 10 ships! In response to these comments Dingle says that there are no cost-cutting plans, and that he does not intend to take the lines down-market.
It all seems a bit strange to me; but there again I’m a frazzled IT manager, not a marketing manager. In a few years’ time we shall know how it all worked out. In the meantime, here’s a link to the Daily Telegraph article.