Silversea’s recently appointed Australia and New Zealand boss has declared that making the local market the second largest globally is among his chief goals.
“My own personal objective is to make Australia the second largest market at Silversea. We’re currently number three, narrowly behind the UK,” Armstrong exclusively told Travel Weekly.
Armstrong is just a week into his role in Australia, having previously spent five weeks in the cruise line’s Monaco HQ as well as brief stints in Miami and the UK.
His arrival at the helm of Silversea comes after a glittering 10 year career at Royal Caribbean, where he steadily rose through the ranks, ultimately holding the role of managing director ANZ.
Royal Caribbean, of course, took majority ownership of Silversea in June, buying up a 67% stake and Armstrong admits his sudden arrival as its local supremo raised a few eyebrows.
“Yes, my arrival at Silversea from Royal [Caribbean], the conspiracy theorists will say seemed more than a coincidence, I know, but in truth I had decided to do something else last year. I’d served my notice from Royal Caribbean and I wasn’t even sure I’d stay in the cruise industry to be honest.
“But Silversea is such a fantastic brand; one I’d looked on from afar with admiration. There’s so much opportunity for Silversea with the Australian market. Australians are great travellers, they’re affluent, prosperous, economically stable and politically stable. Well, mostly,” he says with a chuckle.
“It’s the perfect chemistry.”
Armstrong is also keen to assure the Australian market that, under new management, Silversea won’t compromise on the things that have made it successful in the past.
“Silversea product [under RCL] will stay the same and indeed will continue to improve. In fact, Royal have opened up additional funding in both software and hardware. The food and beverage standards will lift even higher, with new champagne and caviar options. In terms of hardware, we’ve recently invested in lengthening dry docks, for instance.”
He also has a familiar but encouraging message for the Australian retail trade. “Personally the biggest lesson, or key takeaway from my years in the cruise industry – from when we first opened the RCL office – was the importance of the trade. They are our ambassadors.
“Having a good product is obviously key, but, aside from close engagement with the trade, in this game how you deploy your ships is crucial – everything else will be a struggle if you don’t get this component right.
“You also need to surround yourself with good people, the right team, and people who are up for the challenge, and are motivated by growth. Growth is my middle name.”
Armstrong explained that he will look to be bold in his leadership of Silversea locally.
“You need to set aggressive targets and deliver on these – I’ve found that if you deliver on these you are allowed to go for more and are given more latitude to do things by head office.”
“Luxury cruise represents 2% of the market, but there’s huge potential, even if we became 3% of the total it’d be big for us.
“The question we are asking terms of growth is, ‘where do we find these guests who haven’t cruised with us before?’ We know there are people cruising on bigger ships who pay a premium. There are also a lot of land-based European travellers we want to get cruising. Why not add a 10-night cruise to a land holiday? That will be our pitch.”
And when asked who he thought was an organisation doing good things for the industry, Armstrong had a surprising response.
“Virgin entering the cruise market is an interesting development. They are helping to break down the misconceptions about cruising and potentially bringing a new audience to the market. They’ve always employed interesting PR and marketing strategies. They’re an interesting brand to watch,” he concluded.