Cruise Lines: Hospitality Management on the Move
With a steady pattern of growth, the cruise industry offers a lucrative opportunity for those seeking something different in hospitality. The complexities of managing a moving hotel complete with restaurants, shopping, activities, entertainment, and shore tours — not to mention the maintenance and mechanics of the ship itself — create amazing opportunities to further personal and professional growth and development, as Thatcher Brown ’91 has discovered.
In the midst of a thriving global career that included a broad range of experience in brand strategy and management, hotel operations, marketing, and product and development, Brown, Vice President of On Board Revenue and Product Development at Costa Crociere, found the challenges of this multifaceted industry to be irresistible. His concentration in International Management continues to serve him well as his responsibilities extend across the “Seven Seas.”
“It’s been an exciting time for me to apply so many different disciplines into such a dynamic role,” Brown said. “Research, analysis, marketing, branding, guest engagement and experience, digital and traditional communications—it’s challenging. Beyond this, being based in Italy and serving multiple markets in Europe, South America, and Asia adds fascinating cultural dimensions. The scale, complexity, and logistics involved with delivering consistent and exceptional quality is staggering given that our ships are deployed all over the world. The cruise industry is remarkable in how they manage and optimize such a capital intensive, multifaceted business.”
Cruise lines are confronted with a number of variables that aren’t always present in land-based hospitality. The constant movement of the vessels requires a great deal of behind-the-scenes attention. From adapting on-board food and beverage offers to the cultural norms of diverse source markets to the extensive day-to-day maintenance requirements of operating a ship that carries thousands of passengers, the intricacies of management can be challenging. Overall, however, the founding principles of exceptional service and relentless execution of a clear brand and business strategy do not change.
“It all boils down to what we first learned as ‘hotelies’: listening to your guests, being passionate about delivering exceptional service and optimizing your business proposition … and, of course, ‘location, location, location’ (itinerary and destination development in the case of the cruise industry),” says Brown. “One of the challenges both on the hotel side and the cruise side is, how do you distinguish yourself through relevant value propositions that support your distinct positioning? The winners are the brands that sustain growth by challenging the norms, both on incremental and step-change levels, to create better yields and competitive advantage. Every day, I am proud to bring to my profession a curiosity, a passion to make a positive difference, and a work ethic that I credit a great deal to my Cornell and Statler Hall days.”