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The TTG Interview

An illuminating time in cruise

From TV documentary tie-ins to learning the ‘language of cruise’, Hurtigruten’s managing director Kathryn Beadle hasn’t looked back since moving to the cruise sector six years ago. By Edward Robertson

bound to leave you facing new challenges and changes. And this is exactly what Kathryn


Beadle was expecting when in 2008 she made the move from Virgin Holidays to Hurtigruten. For although she was still selling

holidays, the cruise market remains a very different one from what she was used to, particularly in its

fter more than 30 years working for leisure tour operators, a move into the cruise market is

overall ethos. Beadle says: “The one thing that

struck me most when I joined the cruise industry six years ago was just how united the whole industry is and how persistent all the major players are in getting new-to-cruise business. “They recognise the way to do that

is all get behind the cruise industry. “My problem was being ignorant

about ships, and going to agencies where people talk knowledgeably about the history of ships. I had to learn a different language.”

The other thing that most struck

Beadle was how much freedom the cruise industry offered her as opposed to the more traditional tour operating model. She said: “It is a different industry;

cruise companies can move their ships to where the demand is. “You need to look at the cruise

industry as a whole global business rather than just in the UK. “All these global players change

and itineraries change; if they see a big opportunity in Asia where per

diems could be higher then two years down the line they will move their ships down there.” But one thing Beadle could not

predict when she moved from land- based to ocean-going trips was what was going to happen in the global economy, as her move in 2008 coincided with the collapse of US bank Lehman Brothers and much of the global economy. “Nobody in the travel industry has

come out unscathed, be it personal or professional,” she says. “It has made us have to do things

differently, we have to be more accountable.” Her task was not made easier by

an across-the-board cut in marketing spend for the entire Norwegian company, which she has only seen reversed this year. “We had to be much smarter with

the moneys that we had, and make sure we got a return on them,” Beadle says.

New touchpoints Firstly this meant embracing the opportunities that social media provides over traditional media as the market increasingly changed. Beadle says: “We have to do things

differently, the way we measure is different. If you look at newspaper advertising, response rates are going down significantly. “They [consumers] will touch the

brand at many different points; they might see an advert in the newspaper, go on the web site and then they might then join up to our Facebook page. “They then engage with Facebook

and then they will go into a travel agent.”

Similarly the operator works hard

to ensure agents are well versed as to what will be appearing on television and the impact that certain programmes can have on booking patterns. Beadle says: “It is something we’ve

Beadle introduced a winter programme in 2009 that focused on the Northern Lights

12 13.03.2014

always done; we’ve been very good at letting the travel agents know when a particular programme is on such as Frozen Planet. “We let them know it is happening, provide them with collateral

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