Carnival Corporation is sending Alan Buckelew, chief operations officer, to China. Demonstrating yet another step in the cruise industry's march to increase China sourcing, Buckelew will expand his leadership role by relocating to China to closely oversee the company's growing operations.
Carnival Corp. will reposition COO Alan Buckelew in Shanghai, China. // Photo by Carnival Corp.
Based in Shanghai, Buckelew will lead all company initiatives in China, continue oversight of all global maritime and port operations for Carnival Corp. and handle related functions that are part of his COO role.
China is huge to the cruise industry, according to Robin Farley, cruise industry analyst for UBS Investment Research. Last week she told her firm's investors that China's cruise line penetration rate is well under 1 percent, versus 2 percent in Europe and 4 percent in North America.
Farley also said that price checks of Chinese travel sellers show higher yield for China-sourcing ships versus North American ships in the Caribbean.
Underscores China Commitment
"As the world's largest cruise company with a portfolio of nine global cruise lines, we are the clear market leader in China and very well positioned to continue working with officials in China to help the country meet its goal of becoming one of the most important cruise markets in the world," said Arnold Donald, CEO, Carnival Corporation.
"Today's announcement underscores our deep commitment to China as a market of great strategic importance for our company. Alan is one of the most respected leaders in the industry and having him on the ground in China will add great strength to our operation and growth opportunities in China," said Donald.
Farley says Carnival Corporation management envisions strong capacity growth in China and that "China will be the world's largest cruise market." She notes that Carnival Corp. began sourcing in China during 2006, broke even in 2012 and has made money in the country ever since. China sourcing yields have been growing by double digits in 2014 even with a 66 percent capacity increase.
Buckelew has extensive experience in Asia. He previously served as CEO of Princess Cruises prior to moving to Carnival Corp. as COO. Princess currently operates extensive service from Japan and has global itineraries throughout Asia.
"We are excited about our cruise ships currently serving the Chinese market and the vast potential to grow our business in China in the months and years to come," Buckelew said. "Our team in China is dedicated and passionate about delivering a unique experience designed to exceed the expectations of every guest who boards one of our ships."
This past May, the company announced that Costa Cruises' Costa Serena will deploy year-round from Shanghai in April 2015. The ship will join Costa Victoria and Costa Atlantica, which are also deployed in the Chinese market.
In addition, Princess Cruises began home porting Sapphire Princess from Shanghai this past summer. So next summer, Carnival Corporation will become the first global cruise company with four ships based in China. It will post a 140 percent increase in Chinese sourcing capacity in a two-year period.
"As we execute our strategy to accelerate growth in China, we have the benefit of eight years of experience in China to not only help guide our expansion, but also find unique ways to delight our guests with the joy of cruising," Buckelew said.
More than Three Decades of Service
With a career spanning more than 37 years in the cruise industry, Buckelew previously served as COO for Cunard Line from 2004 to 2007. He became the CEO for Princess Cruises in June 2007 and was tapped as Princess' president in February 2004.
Operationally, Buckelew has a breadth of experience. For example, he previously served as the executive vice president responsible for Princess's strategic planning, marketing and yield management services.
Before that, he held various other high-level executive positions in customer service, shared services and yield management. In addition, he was chief information officer and chief financial officer for Princess.
Buckelew served in US Army in 1969 and 1970. He holds an MBA and bachelor's degree from the University of California at Los Angeles.
Carnival Corporation has nine cruise brands that operate in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia. Those include Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line, AIDA Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard, Ibero Cruises, P&O Cruises (Australia) and P&O Cruises (UK).
Together, these brands operate 101 ships totaling 212,000 lower berths with eight new ships scheduled to be delivered between 2014 and 2017. Carnival Corporation also operates Holland America Princess Alaska Tours, a tour company in Alaska and the Canadian Yukon.