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FTI, Deilmann cooperation another step in Germany's cruise consolidation

FTI, Deilmann cooperation another step in Germany's cruise consolidation
In a new partnership, FTI Cruises, a division of FTI Touristik that operates the Berlin, will assume the marketing of Peter Deilmann's Deutschland to 11,400 German, Austrian and Swiss travel agents. Deilmann will retain its own call centre to serve agents and handle direct bookings.

Despite their close cooperation, Deilmann and FTI Touristik will remain independent companies. However, their respective MDs, Christopher Nolde and Ralph Schiller, did not rule out future synergies between the two single-ship operators.

Deilmann and FTI Cruises provide different products serving different markets, although both ships were contracted by the late German entrepreneur and cruise pioneer Peter Deilmann.

Delivered in 1980, the Berlin was once prominent in Germany's cruise fleet and the setting for the popular 'Traumschiff' series (Germany's equivalent of 'The Love Boat'). The ship stopped sailing for Deilmann in late 2004.

After several years under foreign ownership, the Berlin was acquired by FTI Group in summer 2011 and brought back into the German market. The 412-passenger ship is promoted as a 'classic' vessel offering inexpensive cruises to travelers who appreciate an older, familiar vessel.

In contrast, Deilmann's 1998-built Deutschland serves the luxury end of the market. Sold as a 'Grand Hotel at Sea,' it accommodates up to 480 passengers.

Deilmann and FTI Cruises hope their cooperation boosts bookings.

'With FTI Group we gain a strong and dynamically developing sales partner,' Deilmann's Nolde said. 'As Germany's fourth largest tour operator, FTI is a strong force on the market. We will benefit from that.'

Nolde made it clear that operations and product development for the Deutschland will remain in Deilmann's hands.

FTI Group's Schiller said all parts of his organisation will be involved with the Deutschland's marketing. Regional sales directors are going to call on agents, a specially trained service centre cruise team will be set up to provide telephone support and the Deutschland will be integrated into marketing initiatives such as trade fairs, advertising and road shows.

Selling a luxury cruise ship is something new for FTI's organisation. Schiller said intensive product training and guided tours of the Deutschland will prepare the FTI travel agencies for their new challenge.

The cooperation is another step in the ongoing consolidation of the German ocean cruise sector. In March, TransOcean took over sales for Passat Kreuzfahrten, while TransOcean's parent company, Premicon, joined forces with Cruise & Maritime Voyages.

Industry experts expect the consolidation to continue and believe it will expand from sales and marketing to ship management, operational issues such as port planning and, potentially, also crewing.