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Friday, Oct 18, 2002

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Star Cruises targets niche segments — No docking plans as yet

P.T. Jyothi Datta

Recently in Hong Kong, Oct. 17

STAR Cruises, the world's fourth largest cruise company, is set to aggressively woo out-bound traffic from India — targeting both the deep-pocketed corporates and the foot-loose and fancy-free travellers.

Cruises are increasingly being looked at by corporates as an innovative way to launch new products or reward efficient staff in their companies — though prices continue to be a trifle steep for the average Indian traveller. Tariffs, at present,range from $320 to $1,700 per passenger.

`Star Saver', a promotional package offering incentives to those bitten by the travel-bug, is set to break next month, as part of Star Cruises efforts to target niche segments such as corporate houses, senior citizens, honey-mooners and even the educational segment or schools, Ms Jean Teo, Star Cruises - Senior Vice-President (Sales and Marketing), told Business Line.

Ruling out the possibility of docking at Indian shores in the short-term, she singled out the seasonal nature of weather in this region as a primary reason. "Cruises are operated round the year and docking out of India would be a problem because of the seasonal climate in the region."

However, the cruise company is bullish on travel trends emerging from India and hope to grow by 20 per cent this year.

Companies that had used cruises to either reward efficient executives, launch products or commend performing dealers, include Sansui, UB, Modi Xerox and Coca-Cola in 2001, according to Mr Vijay Puthran, Senior Manager-Sales with Star Cruises. The current year has had companies such as Maruti, Good Year and Gillette use the same "perk-avenue".

"Sansui held one of the largest conferences last year with 1,900 employees and next month Amway is scheduled to hold a business conference with 1,600 people," he informs.

An interesting new segment that the cruise company is looking at is the educational segment and recently they had taken children above 13 years from the Bangalore-based Jain International. Star Cruises, through its preferred sales agents spread across India, is seeking to hard-sell packages and schemes that suit every pocket.

Meanwhile, Ms Teo said that the integration of the recently acquired Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) had been completed and Star Cruises currently operates a combined fleet of 19 ships. One more ship is scheduled to join the fleet by end 2002, even as the company plans to have four more new ships by 2004. Two liners would be with Star Cruises in the South Asian regions and two with NCL would operate in the American and European routes, she said.

Star Cruises is owned by the Star Cruises Group, in which Gentings, the Malaysia-based promoters of Chinese origin, have 52 per cent equity. The group clocked a turnover of $1,338 million last year and has registered robust sales of $758 million in the first six months this year.

India on Star Cruises radar: 1999 — 18,000 passengers; 2000 — 22,000 passengers; 2001 — 21,000 passengers (dip because of 9/11); 2002 — 25,000 passengers (targeted).

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