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Costa France claims 'breakthrough' in drawing new cruisers to winter routes

Costa's week-long Caribbean, Mediterranean winter routes a beacon to new cruisers
'Quite a satisfactory evolution until now' is how Costa France md George Azouze sums up 2014, when the main focuses have been a healthy increase of individual passengers and very strong growth for winter cruises in the Caribbean and Mediterranean.

Though the company won’t disclose any figures, these itineraries show a 'huge breakthrough of first-timers, who discover cruising during our one-week sailings,' Azouze said. In fact, new cruisers represent 70% of the French passengers on these sailings.

To develop the national market and work closer with its trading partners, Costa has strongly increased its sales force with eight new professionals. The company is also segmenting travel agencies to sharpen its commercial analysis and actions.

Further, under the name 'C Extra,' Costa France is launching a new business-to-business community site that's an extension of its reservation center for retailers, Costa Click, and gives agents the information and sales tools to become experts, Azouze said.

Additionally, the company has significantly increased its marketing, with more publicity campaigns, more power and diversity in media buying and a new television spot.

Departures from French ports have also increased. Marseille is the cornerstone of the company’s strategy with a 47% spike as turnaround and transit port in 2014, and Toulon will remain the summer base for Costa neoRiviera in 2015. Caribbean cruises favour Pointe à Pitre, Guadeloupe, and Fort-de-France, Martinique, as departure ports.

As for the neoCollection cruises, which deploy smaller, older ships on longer itineraries and provide deeper destination focus coupled with a European art de vivre ambiance, 'there is a good response here to this concept among the repeaters and Costa Club members but also among newcomers who are seeking a new way to cruise,' Azouze said.