Hurtigruten Expeditions Rebrands, Doubles Down on Travel Advisors

Hurtigruten Expeditions, going forward, will be known only as HX. In a move to help differentiate itself from fellow Hurtigruten Group AS brand, Hurtigruten Norwegian Coastal Express, the expedition cruise line has shortened its name and is planning to significantly ramp up its B2B offerings.

The HX name has soft-launched today, September 19, and will remain in that phase through December 2023. Then, as the brand enters 2024, it will more heavily rely on the HX name, although “Hurtigruten Expeditions” will still be included in some branding to give the market time to associate the new name with the line.

Hurtigruten Norway, which celebrated 130 years of operating the original Norwegian Coastal Express this summer, will continue with the name but simplified to “Hurtigruten” (the same name as when it first launched in 1893). Both Hurtigruten Expeditions and Hurtigruten Norway are 100 percent owned by Hurtigruten Group and form a portfolio of sustainable travel brands that includes land-based activities, including hotels, restaurants and more through Hurtigruten Svalbard, plus a 25 percent stake in Ecuador-based Metropolitan Touring, which operates expedition cruises in the Galapagos on behalf of HX.

“Today’s evolution of our brand identities is the culmination of the work that started in 2021 when we split the two brands,” said Daniel Skjeldam, CEO, Hurtigruten Group, in a written statement. He added: “With HX, we are investing in our high-end expedition itineraries to some of the most adventurous, remote places around the world, including being the only cruise liner to exclusively sail the West African archipelagos of both Cape Verde and the Bissagos Islands.”

The new HX brand and logo will be fully implemented starting in December, with updates to brochures, websites and social channels; livery repainting of the fleet’s six ships will commence over the next 12 to 15 months.

In 2020, the separation of the two brands was announced to enhance operational and commercial autonomy for each business, allowing for the delivery of distinctly different guest experiences. Implementation of this separation began in 2021, and, in June this year, Hurtigruten Group completed its internal restructuring to align commercial and support functions with the dedicated ship operations.

Shift to Travel Trade

Daniel Skjeldam, CEO Hurtigruten Group
Daniel Skjeldam, CEO of Hurtigruten Group (Photo by Hurtigruten)

As part of the internal restructuring, HX in the coming months will be adding more people to its sales team to better support its travel advisor partners—both existing and new.

“We see a massive potential in the U.S. market, and this change is not only about branding, it's also about clarifying that these are two different organizations—which also entails different distribution strategies,” Skjeldam tells Travel Agent. “So, whereas the Group overall has had a 50-50 split between B2C and B2B, HX will, in the future, migrate more towards the trade and have a higher trade share than direct-to-consumer share."

In addition, Skjeldam says HX will be updating its terms and conditions as well as travel advisor commission rates to be more competitive with other expedition cruise line offerings. While he wouldn’t share exactly what the commission structure would be, he says it’s “definitely” going to be an improvement over the current system.

“With the brand change and clarifications of the separate teams, we think it's going to unlock more potential through good cooperation with our trade partners,” adds Skjeldam.

Fleet Updates, New Itineraries

Since the start of the year (January though August 2023), HX’s U.S. revenue is up 93 percent when compared to last year. When compared to 2019, just before the pandemic, departure revenue is up 949 percent.

As Hurtigruten Group looks to further differentiate its expedition product from the operations now known as Hurtigruten, it announced a fleet adjustment, shifting HX’s battery-hybrid-powered MS Otto Sverdrup to Hurtigruten in January 2024, while redeploying MS Maud to Antarctica due to growing demand. In the 2024-25 Antarctica season, HX will offer guests more choices than any other expedition cruise company, with 36 departures across eight different itineraries spanning 12 to 24 days.

At the same time, HX will offer fewer Norwegian sailings, both as a way to offer new itineraries to other parts of the world on the ships currently in the destination and in order to continue to separate itself from the former Norwegian Coastal Express operations.

MS Roald Amundson and MS Fridtjof Nansen
MS Roald Amundson and MS Fridtjof Nansen  (Photo by Hurtigruten Expeditions & Ted Gatlin)

That said, it will still continue to offer “some sailings” that “really, really emphasizes the expedition” side of Norway, according to Skjeldam. “We've struggled with under the existing brand structure to create enough differentiation. So, with taking out some capacity of HX from the market, we're clarifying the product proposition—but it's also [a way] to free up that capacity within an HX to sail elsewhere,” he says.

Next up on the destination side is Next destination/itinerary to launch is West Africa and Cape Verde, with the first sailing launching November 3. The itinerary begins with a night in a hotel in Dakar, Senegal before MS Spitsbergen disembarks the following day on a 14-day sailing. It will be followed by five additional departures for the 2023-2024 season.

On its sailings, HX will continue to provide its guests with the same immersive small-ship experience with scientific research, expert-led lectures and community advocacy at the heart of the experience.

Hurtigruten Group remains steadfast in its commitment to becoming “the world’s most sustainable adventure travel company” by investing in technologies and solutions to achieve emission-free travel by 2050. Skjeldam adds that, beyond sustainability being the company’s core value, HX is seeing “more and more interest in the North American market for a company and a product that really puts sustainability front and center."

To that effect, Hurtigruten (formerly the Norwegian Coastal Express) will launch its battery-hybrid powered ship, MS Richard With, by 2030. HX, for its part, introduced its first battery-hybrid powered expedition ship, MS Roald Amundsen, in 2019. The expedition cruise brand currently has three battery-hybrid powered ships in its fleet. The Group also shares an annual Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) report—“the good, the bad and the ugly” included, according to Skjeldam.

"We are seeing, unfortunately, negative effects from greenwashing in the industry,” says Skjeldam, “but that makes us stand out even more … and that's also why we are putting so much effort into making our efforts public."

Related Stories

Hurtigruten Expeditions Launching High-Speed Internet on Fleet

Audley Travel Launches European River Cruise Itineraries

Lindblad, Approach Guides Create Customizable Sales Content

Atlas Ocean Voyages Expands North America Sales Team