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norwegianThe long-awaited establishment of a dedicated Australian office for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) is expected to significantly boost the company’s business here. BRUCE PIPER reports.

Representing all three brands: Norwegian, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, the office represents a massive boost in resources, moving from the former arrangement where there was just one local employee to an expected full head count of around 40 by early next year.

The office, which formally commenced operation on 1 October, is headed up by Steve Odell, with an experienced team including Norwegian veteran Nicole Costantin, who has been appointed as vice president of sales for Australia/NZ for Norwegian Cruise Line. Sales of Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises will be looked after by Lisa Pile, who returns to Australia after an extensive career in luxury travel including her most recent role as executive director of Global Luxury Sales for Fairmont Raffles Hotels International.

Ben Angell, formerly with Royal Caribbean, returns to the cruise industry after a stint at Virgin Australia and will head up marketing across all three brands, and Elizabeth Krstevski rounds out the team as operations/contact centre manager, joining from her former role with Helloworld wholesale’s The Cruise Team.

Odell, who is now based in Sydney after several years in Europe where he headed up Silversea Cruises in EMEA and Asia Pacific, told travelBulletin he believes there is a major opportunity for the Norwegian, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas brands. “I firmly believe we are the leader in all three markets where we operate,” he said, with NCLH spanning the “upper end of the contemporary,premium and luxury cruise categories”.

Office space in the Sydney CBD is currently being fitted out, with recruitment for other team members well under way. “Having a local call centre is a big deal – not everyone has that,” Odell said, with all three brands operating under one roof in Australia set to ensure timely and accurate communication with the company’s travel industry partners.

Existing relationships with resellers such as Cruise Office (for Oceania) and Wiltrans (for Regent Seven Seas) will continue, with the company’s strategy being to branch out into the travel agent retail arena. “Wholesalers are a vital part of our distribution chain,” Odell said – particularly for destinations such as Hawaii where Norwegian has a very strong presence. “The GSAs have been a big driver of our business, and they’ve done a great job. The local office will help us to support them better,” he added. Potential growth areas for Norwegian include Alaska and longer Mediterranean voyages, with the company hoping to step up its cooperation with groups such as Cruiseco, Infinity, Creative Cruising and others.

Odell confirmed that as well as recruiting BDMs across Australia and dedicated inside sales support staff the company would also have someone on the ground in New Zealand. “We have a huge opportunity, being the lesser known of the contemporary brands in the Australasian market,” he said. Locals will have the opportunity to see the Norwegian product for themselves in 2016/2017 when the refurbished Norwegian Star will operate a brief season out of Sydney and Auckland.

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