French cruise line woos Aussie cruisers

French cruise line woos Aussie cruisers
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French cruise line Compagnie du Ponant expects Australian sales of its yacht cruise itineraries to double by 2016, buoyed by its Asia program aboard new vessel Soleal.

Australian cruisers now account for between 3% and 4% of the overall passenger mix, making the market the fourth most significant for the cruise line, international sales director Stephen Winter told Travel Today.

"It doesn't sound that impressive but it's a good figure in terms of revenue and growth," he said. "Australia is a market with huge potential. It's one of fastest growing markets we have."

Between 2011 and 2012, the cruise line saw a 48% rise in the number of Aussies on board. Winter is hopeful that this year, the number will rise even further on the back of a number of Asian itineraries to be operated by the 264-guest Soleal. The Asian program will see the ship call at a range of ports including Myanmar, with options to fly to the country's interior to see key sights.

"It will be even easier for Australians to hop on a plane to get on one of our Asian cruises, so we're expecting some good business out of this market for that program," he said.

Along with its Greek Islands and Croatian coast itineraries, the cruise line's Antarctic voyages have proved very popular with the Australian market. In 2014/15, Ponant will have three ships in Antarctic waters, with their strong green credentials a major selling point, according to Winter.

He also revealed the cruise line is considering the possibility of operating an Antarctic cruise from an Australia port.

"But that's a lot of days at sea, I don't know it will work," he said.

Meanwhile, the cruise line is exploring the addition of several Australian itineraries to its 2014 program with a Darwin to Brisbane voyage on the cards, and further sailings down to Sydney and New Zealand a possibility, once relevant authorisations have been achieved.

Winter emphasised the suitability of Compagnie du Ponant's range of cruising for the Australian market, with all itineraries aboard the ships bi-lingual, a strong emphasis on luxury, fine food and wine with the smaller ships offering a "boutique" alternative to the "monsters" currently dominating the seas.

"Before, our clientele was mainly French and American, but now it's really become international," he said.

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