Travel Agent caught up with Maurice Zarmati, CEO of Costa Cruises North America and subject of a Travel Agent June 2008 cover story, who says that continual brand growth (three new ships in eight months) coupled with reduced capacity in the Caribbean was the reason for implementing the new sales model, which started Monday of this week.
Beginning in January, only one Costa ship, Atlantica, will sail from a North American port. It will depart from Miami and operate seven-day cruises in eastern and western Caribbean. The ship will be repositioned from Fort Lauderdale due to better airlift in Miami.
"We decided to source most of the ships with Europeans," Zarmati says. "The role of North America for the Caribbean will be decreased." He says the two ships deploying from the U.S. were full— the problem being that the per diems were "below expectations in the Caribbean."
Costa is now looking to recast itself as "the preferred cruise line for North Americans traveling to Europe," Zarmati says. "By doing so, we won't be handling as much Caribbean traffic." As such, Costa had to restructure all its departments in North America from sales and marketing to finance.
The result of this modified business model, based on a leaner organization, is a "focus on selling Costa’s new worldwide sales and marketing approach," Zarmati says. "In this new model, our key travel agent partners will assume and even more important role in directing new business to Costa."
In the past, Costa did business with suportive and less enthusiastic agents. "Now we will focus on key partners that really want to sell Costa with the passion and enthusiasm we are looking for. They will become our preferred partners," Zarmati says.