New Silversea President Discusses Growth

When Silversea Cruises appointed Amerigo Perasso as its new president—with Albert Peter becoming deputy chairman of Silversea Leisure and Travel—agents barely batted an eye. It was just another corporate restructuring. But when some learned Perasso would be based in Monaco, rather than at the line's Fort Lauderdale headquarters, the question was: "Is Silversea shifting its focus from the North American market to Europe?"

 Amerigo Perasso

"I would put it in context with future growth," said Perasso, in his first American trade interview, with Travel Agent. "We are always trying to establish and position ourselves quite in advance of market trends," Perasso said from Monaco. Yes, Silversea wants to take advantage of the booming economies in Europe and Asia for future growth, he said, but "basically North America will continue to be the focus."

"We don't anticipate any change over the short term," said Perasso, noting that 65 percent of the line's revenue comes from North America. When charter and incentive sales are mixed in, the total is 70 percent. "So that [the North American market] will continue to be our core base," he noted.

From a competitive standpoint, all luxury lines need to tap into burgeoning demand from overseas luxury clients. Perasso cited both Europe and Asia as having potential for more sales growth, along with Central and South America. He says the line's numbers are impressively on the rise in Mexico and Brazil.

While still catering to Americans, the line's view is that a bit higher mix of international guests onboard shouldn't be detrimental to any of its customers. Silversea's guest satisfaction surveys have consistently shown that American luxury clients like to mingle onboard with other like-minded luxury guests from diverse cultures.

What about those potential new ships for Silversea (discussed for some time now)? Perasso wouldn't speculate on potential new tonnage, other than saying Silversea was definitely interested and would expand at some point. Nor did he say where any new tonnage would be placed.

The good news for agents is that he believes: "We will basically have a similar marketing profile [for any new vessels]." Translation: Don't expect Silversea to put a ship in China and target that only for the Chinese market. New tonnage will be used to expand the brand.

What's Perasso's vision? He cited his pride in the strength of Silversea's brand. "If we can be so visible [after such a short time compared with other lines], it means the core of our output and our product is excellent. So my commitment will be to enhance that at all levels." Agents can expect a strong quality and product focus.

In Other News

Elsewhere, we were pleased that MSC Cruises proactively opted to commission shore excursions to North American agents booking travel for their clients on all MSC ships.

Commission of 10 percent is paid on shore trips booked three days or more in advance of sailing. This is one of the strongest points cited by agents in "Agents Reveal Wish List for Cruise Selling" (Travel Agent, Jan. 8, 2007). Some wishes do come true it seems.

While MSC clearly seeks a market edge, it also appreciates agents as an asset. "Customers want to book shore excursions in advance and they need help doing that," says Rick Sasso, president and CEO, MSC Cruises USA. "It's not easy. So we want the travel agent to be intimately involved in helping clients pick shore excursions. Therefore, agents should be compensated."

Our response? Thanks and Amen.