Roberto Alberti engages in a conversation with Travel And Tour World and shares his experiences and responsibilities as the Senior Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer ofCosta Cruises. Alberti also enlightens our readers how Costa Cruises emerged as a new model for luxury cruising “enabling guests to explore destinations through unique and authentic experiences, both on board and ashore, and do it sustainably”.
Travel And Tour World: After 3 years of the COVID-19 pandemic what are the current trends and challenges (if, at all) that the cruise industry is facing right now?
Roberto Alberti: The last few summers have been still affected by COVID-related travel restrictions. As these restrictions have been lifted, we have noted a strong desire to travel again. And cruises, having further strengthened their value for money, represent a very attractive holiday choice for travellers. Talking about Costa, sales in the first months of 2023 were strong. Ship occupancy is growing steadily, and sales for this summer’s programs are progressing very rapidly, with high demand for cabins. This is a very encouraging scenario, if we also consider that our capacity in the Mediterranean has increased compared to 2019, while keeping our capacity in Northern Europe constant, thanks to the addition to the fleet over the last three years of new, state-of-the-art ships, such as the Costa Toscana and Costa Smeralda.
Travel And Tour World: How would you describe the Costa as a brand in the industry?
Roberto Alberti: For 75 years, Costa’s ships have sailed the seas of the world, offering a diverse choice of cruise holidays, featuring a true European touch and Italian passion,that make Costa different from any other cruise experience.There is a tipping point to understand what Costa is today: in 2021, as cruises were resuming, we repositioned our brand, adding a new product value proposition.The “new” Costa is based on enabling guests to explore destinations through unique and authentic experiences, both on board and ashore, and do it sustainably. To build these experiences, we have focused on three key areas – food, shoreside tours and sustainability – with a new visual identity to communicate them. The concept follows Costa’s “Manifesto for Value-driven, Sustainable, and Inclusive Tourism” – an innovative, one-of-a-kind document that lists ten items redefining Costa’s way of thinking and acting, starting with the communities that host its ships and building a tourism model that generates greater economic and social value. Costa’s transformation is so far-reaching that it includes our distinctive logo and a new visual identity. The iconic “C” that has been accompanying our company on seas worldwide for 75 years now brings together two different motifs in a sinuous, enveloping embrace: the earth, seen in yellow in the lower part of the logo, and the sea, in blue in the upper part, joined in the same experience and reflecting the company’s new model of cruising.
Travel And Tour World: Tell us something about your fleets and destinations
Roberto Alberti: Our fleet consists of 10 ships, all flying the Italian flag, including the sister ships Costa Smeralda and Costa Toscana, powered by liquefied natural gas, a technology we were the first to introduce in the industry, with the aim of cutting emissions. During this summer the big star of our offer will be the Mediterranean, together with Northern Europe. In the western Mediterranean we have four shipsdeployed. Three of these ships – Costa Smeralda, Costa Toscana and Costa Diadema – will offer one-week cruises to the most beautiful destinations in Italy, France and Spain, such us Naples, Rome, Barcelona, Ibiza, Valencia, Palermo, Marseille. While Costa Fortuna, the fourth ship, will offer for the first time a two-week itinerary in the middle of summer allowing cruisers to discover Greek and Balearic Islands in a single holiday. In the eastern part of the Mediterranean we will instead have two ships, Costa Deliziosa and Costa Pacifica, bound for the Greek islands, including Mykonos and Santorini, Malta and Croatia.
In Northern Europe, on the other hand, we have three ships which will offer spectacular itineraries including the return of Greenland, but also the fjords, Iceland, the North Cape and the Baltic cities.
During autumn and spring, we will also offer longer cruises, lasting more than 7 days, to the Canary Islands, Morocco, Portugal, Turkey, Greece and Israel. In this regard, from September we will have a new product, called ‘Costa Voyages’, designed just for this kind of cruises. It will recover, in a contemporary key, some of the traditional elements of cruises that are much appreciated by our most loyal cruise passengers, including special gastronomic and entertainment experiences.
During next winter we will offer cruises in the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Emirates, South America and our spectacular “Around the World Cruise”. Furthermore, we have a ship, Costa Serena, fully dedicated to the Asian markets, that during 2023 will be offering cruises to Japan from South Korea and Taiwan, and domestic cruises in India.
Travel And Tour World: What are the major markets served by Costa? Is there any addition to your target market(s) as the tourism industry is reviving gradually?
Roberto Alberti: Costa is an Italian company, but it has always had in its DNA the ability to offer holidays designed to meet the tastes of guests from different countries. So, we have guests coming from almost all the countries in the world. Currently, besides Italy, our main markets are France, Spain, Germany, South America, Austria, Switzerland as well as Asia, where we have an established presence. As tourism is reviving, we are concentrating precisely on maximizing the potential of these markets, where cruises, although increasingly popular, still represent a small part of total tourism. But there are also new opportunities to be seized, with new markets opening up. One example is India, a country with promising potential. From November 2023 we will offer domestic cruises, giving Indian guests the opportunity to discover some of their country’s most beautiful locations from a unique point of view. The itineraries, lasting between two, three and five days, will call at Mumbai, Cochin, Goa and, for the first time ever, the Lakshadweep, a beautiful tropical archipelago with white beaches and a magnificent coral reef.
Travel And Tour World: Is there any change in Costa’s itinerary after it headed back out to the sea post-pandemic?
Roberto Alberti: No, thanks to the great work done together with the institutions, we have been able to restore all the main itineraries that characterized our offer before the pandemic, as well as introducing some new destinations to satisfy the great desire to travel of more experienced cruise passengers. A trend we have noticed since last year in Europe is that of favouring proximity travel. Our Mediterranean cruises meet the need for proximity particularly well for European guests, because they offer many different embarkation ports from which you can comfortably start and end your cruise.
Travel And Tour World: Tell our readers about Costa’s sustainability efforts and the drive to promote inclusive tourism.
Roberto Alberti: Sustainability is fully integrated in our business model, with the aim of generating social, environmental and economic value. In line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030 agenda we identified four key priorities: moving toward climate neutrality; regenerating resources; empowering people; and building a transformative ecosystem. Concerning the first area, climate neutrality, Costa Cruises’ ambition is to introduce a new generation of ships that can operate with zero net carbon emissions by 2050. We are also working to further improve the energy efficiency of its existing fleet and to support innovation in port infrastructure. Part of this commitment includes the debut of the first ships powered by liquefied natural gas (Costa Toscana and Costa Smeralda), the installation of the latest emission-cutting systems on more than 90 percent of our ships, and a focus on operating shore power technology (powering from shore during port stops), with about more than a half of the fleet’s ships having the capability. We are also testing new technologies, such as biofuels, batteries, fuel-cells. Regarding the regeneration of resources, 100% separate collection and recycling of materials such as plastic, paper, glass and aluminum is already carried out on all ships. In addition, 90% of daily water needs are met by transforming that of the sea through the use of desalinators- a value that reaches 100% on Costa newer ships. The third strategic area, focused on empowering people, concerns both guests and employees. For guests, the goal is to raise awareness about the positive impact of being increasingly responsible travelers in their choices. For employees, the goal is to promote a fair and inclusive work environment, and to enhance their skills. The last strategic area for the building of a transformative ecosystem concerns the value generated by the territories and communities that welcome Costa ships.
An essential part of Costa’s commitment to people and the planet is expressed through the high-impact projects of the Costa Crociere Foundation, an independent nonprofit organization whose work is complementary and synergistic with Costa’s sustainability activities. Since its establishment in 2014, Costa Crociere Foundation has carried out a total of 31 environmental and social projects, benefiting about 130,000 people of more than 130 different nationalities.
Travel And Tour World: What is your vision for Costa to make a positive impact on the cruise industry in 2023 and beyond?
Roberto Alberti: My vision for Costa is simple: offer our guests the best cruise experience ever. This means a continuous effort to improve our product. As I said, in 2021 we started working on our brand and consequently the experience we offer. We’re now seeing the results of what we introduced starting from that time. Apart from the booking numbers, the most significant figure to measure our product value proposition is guest satisfaction, which has increased a lot since 2019, the last year before the pandemic. Offering a holiday going beyond guest expectations, with exceptional value for money, is crucial to the future of the cruise industry. And this is exactly what Costa is doing. Furthermore, the value that Costa generates is also a shared value, from which the destinations that visit our ships benefit. And not only and economic value, but also a socialand sustainable value.This is another crucial aspect: considering ships as an integral part of the territories and communities that host them.The future of cruising will be increasingly integrated and inclusive, and Costa is already moving in this direction. As a pioneer in this industry, Costa wants to deliver unforgettable happiness to its guests, exploring destinations in a sustainable way.