Recently, Travel Agent spoke with Gus Anorcha, the new president of Holland America Line. In our one-on-one interview, we covered Alaska, inclusivity and the differences between premium versus luxury, along with what changes he might implement with the cruise line. To that end, When Antorcha became president of Holland America Line in fall 2020, he says he immediately began to look at the entire operation to see where improvements could be made.
Here's what we learned:
Over the past few months, “I’ve spoken to a lot of mariners, a lot of the trade... and I don’t think this is a situation where we have to come in and change the product," Antorcha tells us. Giving credit to the line's previous president, Orlando Ashford, and his team for entertainment and food enhancements, Antorcha says "those are two things that matter most." He added: "I think we’ll tweak them but won’t make major changes.”
In terms of what will change or be enhanced? "Our relationship with the trade will improve significantly," he believes. "I think that’s an opportunity. I think there is more we will do with the trade.”
On the sales side, Antorcha believes that group sales are now and will continue to be "an area of strength and focus," and that the line's ships are right-sized for groups. In addition, "Holland America is investing in our national and strategic accounts and exploring new ways to enhance our partnerships in this area," he says. "We’d like to work with these partners on ways to incentivize year-over-year growth and set long-term sales goals."
Separately, “I think you’ll see us pushing harder as far as some of our digital products, [including] the website and how we present ourselves,” Antorcha adds. “We’ll be sharper on the marketing side…We need to make it clear how we are different.”
He'd like the messaging to show consumers and advisors such differences as strong service, ships of medium size (in a segment of the industry with increasingly larger ships being built by competitors), the care the line takes in crafting itineraries and how the line connects the onboard experience to the cultures visited.
Antorcha also mentions the line’s reputation for excellence in onboard lectures, for bringing local foods onboard and chefs that integrate those into the onboard culinary experience, and other ways the line delivers the culture in a “very authentic way."
Last month, he also took a major step to give guests more choice—adding a year-round "Have It All" fare that adds in inclusive items (shore excursions, specialty dining and so on). Previously, elements of that were used only in promotions, but now it's a permanent choice within the fare structure. A basic fare is still available.
Typically, Holland America has attracted many mature travelers over the decades. He acknowledges that the line has “made product changes over the last years that broadened the appeal of the product," but tells Travel Agent: "I'm not trying to get younger."
Because Holland America's average cruise length is close to 10 days, Antorcha stresses: "It will skew older because who has 10 days?"
Seven-day cruises tend to attract younger people who don't have the work time off for a longer voyage. In addition, Holland America offers many cruises longer than 10 days, global voyages and exotic trips that may span several weeks.
Holland America ships traverse the world's oceans; in the photo above, one is shown visiting Sydney, Australia.
This year, Holland America Line is celebrating 148 years in business. In those early years, he says the business’ focus was bringing Europeans to the U.S.. Today, it's a global cruise brand serving a mix of U.S. and international guests. Look for the brand to continue to build its strong focus on Alaska (where it's operated for more than 70 years), Europe and global voyages.
When asked "what’s similar from the 1800s that the line still does today? Antorcha's responds this way: “We’ve always treated people well and focused on service,” calling that concept “a deeply rooted tradition.”
For the line’s 150th birthday in 2023, travel advisors can expect “lots of shebang," Antorcha promises, noting that as the industry moves out of the pandemic, "hopefully we'll be back to normal."
So, he believes "everyone will be ready for a good party, reflecting on the amazing history that Holland America has.”