Richard Branson and Virgin Group's Constant Travel Innovations
When considering Richard Branson and Virgin Group's immaculate track record of near-constant travel innovation, and subsequent commercial successes, their upcoming expansion into the cruise ship business can be viewed as an inevitable "next-step" in the conglomerate's steady takeover of the travel industry. When coupled with Virgin Group's current travel operations - ranging from international airline and passenger rail services, to space travel development and hotel accommodations - the inclusion of cruise-ship vacations further solidifies Virgin Group's market influence, and Richard Branson's un-rivaled position as travel-industry vanguard.
Announced early last week, Virgin Group is set to make its foray into the Cruise-Ship industry by the end of the decade, planning to field two brand-new, 4,200-passenger ships, to embark on Caribbean vacation voyages. Though the cruise marketplace is currently dominated by three well-established industry giants (Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian Cruise) Virgin Group believes that, along with consumer needs, the industry landscape is shifting in a new direction, and despite having a significantly smaller fleet of only two ships, they will be able to cater more diligently to the needs of the consumer, set a higher standard of quality for the cruise industry as a whole.
Redefining the Cruise Experience through a Lens of Modern Sophistication
A large part of Virgin Group's strategy in revolutionizing the antiquated cruise industry, is to widen the target demographic by re-conceptualizing the cruise experience to cater to younger generations. In an effort to combat what was described by Virgin Management executive Evan Lovell, as "a misperception that the cruise business is an older person's experience," Virgin Group's goal is to target those who "value a fun, youthful, energetic experience."
As opposed to the current marketing strategies implemented by Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise lines, who generally boast an ever-increasing ship size, and gimmicky on-board amenities, Virgin Group has taken a structurally different approach, instead focusing on quality of service and experience - suggesting that the cruise industry has reached a critical mass regarding ship-size, and quantity of on-board attractions. Virgin believes that the trend of epically massive ships with myriad unnecessary amenities has already begun to fade, shifting instead to ships that hold around 4,000 passengers, and host only the essential cruise activities. According to Ryan Cotton of Bain Capital, "They've [cruise ship companies] reached the point where you can't simply build a bigger boat [...] The industry has realized that this is almost the exactly the sweet spot. It's big enough to provide all the onboard amenities you need, but it's not too big that customers get lost."
In stark contrast to the, all-you-can-eat/ high-stakes-casino/ glitz-and-glamour-on-the-sea vibe advertised by cruise companies today, Virgin Group's mantra seems much more refined and calculated, aiming to create a well-rounded cruise experience by combining our inherent connectedness with the ocean and nature, with elements of modern sophistication inspired by communities like downtown Manhattan, and Soho.
With financial backing from the private equity firm Bain Capital, Virgin Group plans to set themselves apart by building two new ships that will be "more informal, fun, sexy, hip and cool," than the traditional cruise ships currently operated by their competitors. Even though the more intricate details are yet to be revealed, Lovell confirmed that both ships would be designed with un-paralleled levels of modern aesthetics, and specifically cater to the desires of those who normally wouldn't find a cruise to be an engaging vacation option.
Virgin Group's Cruise Industry Shake-Up
"We plan to shake up the cruise industry and deliver a holiday that customers will absolutely love, Richard Branson exclaimed in a statement to the press, "They'll be sailing on the latest ships offering great quality, a real sense of fun, and many exciting activities delivered with the famed Virgin service."
It may be too early to tell, but from the looks of it thus far, Richard Branson's confidence in Virgin Group's ability to re-design and revolutionize the cruise industry, seems obvious and inevitable. With any luck, Virgin Group's innovative marketing campaign and travel-consumer expertise will aid in the revitalization of the cruise industry as a whole, sparking interest in those who never before considered the exploratory vacation potential in a cruise.