As a result, our ability to grow exponentially is capacity-limited and the cost of entry is very high. That presents a major challenge for anyone looking to disrupt the industry and to disrupt a business model that currently works very well.
Quote from Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation, in an article on PhocusWire this week.
In The Big Chair - Arnold Donald of Carnival Corporation
The saying "famous last words" is usually assigned to someone, an organization or entire swathe of an industry that appears overconfident or does not have enough foresight to see what might happen next.
And what happens next, more often than not, is what they said could not happen.
The cruise sector has the ability to make such proclamations about the relative status quo that it has basked in for decades from an extremely well-defended position of strength.
Its assets are expensive to build (the Oasis Of The Seas ship cost $1.4 billion in 2009, for example, compared to a single Airbus A380 aircraft at around $375 million in the same year), costly to maintain and require huge numbers of people to operate them.
So if it is difficult to challenge the physical product, perhaps others elements that glue the sector together are ripe for disruption?
Distribution of the product has altered very little in decades, with travel agents (offline, call centers) the primary channel through which consumers get access to the product and make a booking.
Donald is absolutely right when he says that it's a model that "currently works very well." And some say, perhaps correctly, there is no incentive for any party involved in the food chain to want to alter it.
But to dismiss the prospect of change (clinging, even, tightly to the current method) because the existing parties have no desire to change is perhaps foolhardy.
It is an attitude that has seen many a sector from modern business eventually face disruption not from within, but from the outside - from those who have looked at a model and scratched their heads and asked why it has evolved so little for so long.
Technology changes everything, in every walk of life. Very little in our lives, in our workplaces, in our interactions with other people, is immune from it now.
At some point in the future, perhaps closer than many in the cruise sector want to believe, technology - probably driven by forces with no history in the sector - will begin to alter the model.
Perhaps it will be virtual- or augmented reality-led? Perhaps the "platforms" that dominate every other corner of the industry will figure out how to market and sell cruise better? Perhaps it will be something else entirely?
The ships will continue to cost billions of dollars to produce, but the process that gets people to be inspired by the product and destinations that they visit will eventually change.
Technology has overhauled every other segment of the industry. Cruise's time will come.
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