The tourist echo: Like the whole industry, the Hurtigruten has been affected by the pandemic …
Christine Bois-Beauval : It is clear that our activity has been affected. Especially since Norway, which reopened its borders this summer, has adopted rather strict travel restrictions. But we are also the only company that has never stopped sailing, as at least 2 of our boats sailed in Norway to meet our public service obligations to the country. Since January 2021, our 7 boats located in Norway (out of the 14 in the Hurtigruten fleet, editor’s note) have returned to the sea, and since this summer, they can once again welcome French tourists.
Hurtigruten, is it Norway more than ever?
Christine Bois-Beauval : We are historically connected to Norway. And we will always be the destination’s essential specialists. But if we have created two different units (Hurtigruten Norway and Hurtigruten Expeditions), it is precisely to gain more autonomy, with our boats, vis-à-vis the country. By reducing our capacity in Norway (the shipping company went from 11 to 7 boats), we increase it at other destinations. In polar destinations (Antarctica, Spitsbergen, etc.), where the market already recognizes us as specialists, but also in more tropical destinations. And that is our challenge: to establish Hurtigruten as a company specializing in expedition cruises, including in warmer waters.
Expeditionary expeditions in the tropics correspond to Hurtigruten’s DNA?
Christine Bois-Beauval : In the Galapagos (24 departures scheduled for 2022 from next January), in Senegal (Dakar / Cape Verde / Bijagos Islands) or in the Canary Islands and Madeira (4 departures during the winter of 2022/2023 for the two cruises), or even during a repositioning cruise on the Panama Canal in Chile, we always go on our travels with the same mindset. We want to take our passengers to where others are not going. And by applying the expedition principles that we have always applied in the polar zone, and which can be duplicated. To board a small boat to observe the wildlife of the Galapagos or Antarctica, it is almost the same organization. Except we do not have to supply the combination! Now our challenge is to make these products known in the French market.
Is this the mission of your sales reps this special back-to-school season?
Christine Bois-Beauval : They will be crucial in achieving this. Since the end of August, our sales team is finally back, 100%, and reconnecting with travel agents. The pandemic came at a strategic time for Hurtigruten, which began its transformation. At the commercial level, we start from scratch. It is up to us to restart the machine and to make our new production known for distribution. We must also adapt to the new expectations of travel agencies. For example, we noticed that they did not always have time to receive our sales representatives physically during this recovery phase, which forces them to audit their organization. So we offer more virtual training, either privately or in a webinar format. The next one will focus on the Galapagos and will take place on Thursday, October 21 (online registration). And they can always contact our booking agents, who are real experts and who are trained to be more than just order takers.
Is the partnership with travel agents still as important?
Christine Bois-Beauval : It’s essential. We have a good base of loyal customers, but we need new customers. And it is the travel agents, through their ability to prescribe, who will help us. We need them to publish Hurtigruten’s offers. In particular, we expect our brochure, which for the first time is 100% digital, to help them master our products. We are also in the process of implementing our new B2B portal, redesigned in the Group’s scale as a whole, and currently in the testing phase in France, with some of our best partners. We will listen to them to adjust certain details and adapt them to the French market before launching it before the end of the year. It will especially offer a lot of content, training, etc. in French or translated into French. And of course access to our reservation service connected directly to warehouses.