Hurtigruten Group has lengthy been acknowledged as a pacesetter in expedition cruises with sailings courting again to 1893 on its Norwegian coastal categorical voyages after which to Svalbard in 1896. Greater than a century’s value of expertise has well-positioned it for its robust development trajectory as cruise strains navigate their means out of the Covid-19 pandemic’s disruption on enterprise.
Daniel Skjeldam, CEO of Hurtigruten Group, talks about why now could be the precise time to increase its portfolio of locations and ships. He additionally shares the group’s deep give attention to extra sustainable and numerous operations and what’s in retailer for the rising model.
Hurtigruten has been on a quick trajectory to develop the corporate’s community of locations, why now?
After becoming a member of the corporate within the fall of 2012, I spotted this firm had such a historical past in expedition cruising. It was like a diamond within the tough, however with plenty of mud on it. The corporate had been loss-making for 25 years, however is now on a mission to vary that.
At this time’s traveler is able to seize the day after staying residence for thus lengthy. They wish to take extra adventurous sailings to bucket-list locations. Expedition cruises appeal to individuals that may by no means step foot on a bigger cruise ship. These are people who often go on safari in Africa or cultural treks in Europe. We’re seeing a pattern with individuals wanting extra immersive experiences and including pre or post-trips on land to actually perceive a vacation spot. That’s why now could be the time to develop.
What’s subsequent for Hurtigruten?
Hurtigruten started by increasing across the poles as we grew in Antarctica, Greenland and the Northwest Passage. We’ve got all the time wished to carry the corporate to hotter waters, and to try this we started by potential companions to assist us in several areas. Within the Galapagos Islands, we started crusing this yr and have plans to considerably develop our footprint there subsequent yr with 4 ships.
We’re in a position to try this effectively because of a brand new partnership with Metropolitan Touring, which is named the pioneer of expedition cruising within the Ecuadorian archipelago.
As a tour operator, its alignment with our expedition heritage and sustainability values is so shut making it a unbelievable match. We’ve got taken a 24.9% share for partial possession in Metropolitan Touring and now are utilizing their 90-passenger MS Santa Cruz II on sailings within the Galapagos. It has 50 rooms and suites together with single cabins. Notable upgrades embrace Nordic design and new vegan and vegetarian menus utilizing native recipes.
The place else do you propose to develop?
Hurtigruten already has a number of thrilling itineraries like circumnavigating Iceland, Antarctica and the Falkland Islands, the Canary Islands and two or three-month, pole-to-pole itineraries which have shortly bought out. The corporate has greater than 250 locations in additional than 30 international locations in the meanwhile.
This yr, we start crusing in West Africa to Cape Verde and the Bissagos Islands. Enlargement in Asia-Pacific locations can also be on our radar. There are plenty of potentialities. Different firms are rising too, and the extra Hurtigruten can construct consciousness of expedition cruising, the bigger the general market will likely be.
Sailings to Alaska and the Aleutian Islands are coming this yr, which is one thing we needed to postpone from 2020. Hurtigruten needs to increase to extra iconic, pure locations which can be standard with journey vacationers. Because of partnerships like Metropolitan Touring, we are able to extra simply enter new markets.
Will you proceed to function the Norwegian coastal sailings for which you’re recognized?
Sure, and we can also add extra ships there, too. In the course of the pandemic, Hurtigruten cut up the coastal categorical right into a separate firm just like the Svalbard operation. The third arm of the general model is Hurtigruten Expeditions, which dates again to 1896 and right this moment is led by CEO Asta Lassesen. She was the youngest feminine CFO on the planet of cruising earlier than turning into CEO. Dividing the corporate into three sectors permits quicker and extra sustainable development. Beforehand we had two full-time expedition ships and used a 3rd on sure sailings in the course of the yr. Now, we have now eight.
Hurtigruten not too long ago took supply of MS Fridtjof Nansen, which can start crusing full-time this summer time alongside the coast, and the MS Spitsbergen turned a fully-fledged, battery-hybrid powered expedition ship.
What makes Hurtigruten completely different from different expedition cruise firms?
Hurtigruten was the primary to have a science heart on board. Not solely does this enable friends to be taught and expertise the locations they’re crusing to, however it additionally permits analysis establishments to collect knowledge throughout our sailings. Citizen science packages are a serious a part of the expertise, and friends love with the ability to contribute to bigger initiatives in locations like Antarctica.
The corporate was additionally the primary to have a chief scientist on employees. Dr. Verena Meraldi is accountable for collaborating with scientists and researchers on board Hurtigruten ships. She additionally works to create new experiences the place friends can take part within the analysis.
What’s the hottest locations for People?
Individuals have been dreaming about bucket-list journey for 2 years now and are able to splurge a bit on large journeys. People are the third largest market after Germany and the UK, and there’s large development potential there.
Galapagos, for instance, is large and that’s why we began and instantly doubled the operation to function year-round beginning subsequent yr. Metropolitan Touring has been key for that chance. They helped us increase shortly with their stable experience and popularity as a tour firm.
This yr, Hurtigruten will function an “japanese loop” itinerary within the Galapagos, however beginning subsequent yr, there will likely be each “japanese” and “northern loop” sailings that may be mixed into an 11-day crusing. A “western loop” crusing may even be on provide.
With operations throughout South American, Metropolitan Touring is a pacesetter available in the market. They’ve excursions throughout the continent together with to locations like Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca. The corporate additionally owns well-known inns just like the celebrated and historic Casa Gangotena in Quito and Mashpi Lodge within the Ecuadorian jungle, and these could be paired with a crusing.
How do land-based excursions issue into Hurtigruten’s growth?
Demand for pre- and submit journeys has been robust, particularly as we come out of the pandemic. It’s not solely land excursions along side a crusing. Hurtigruten additionally provides land-only journeys in locations like Svalbard for these that will not need to cruise. In reality, in Svalbard, 65% of that enterprise is impartial journey that doesn’t contain a ship.
Metropolitan Touring is so large in South America, the probabilities to develop that land-based tourism phase are infinite. Persons are transferring away from touring in massive teams, they usually need smaller ships or impartial alternatives to go to much less crowded, off-the-beaten-path locations. It’s not about lounging on a chair within the solar. At this time’s expedition traveler needs content material and experiences, and that may be a market the place there’s excessive development potential. Metropolitan Touring’s credibility pairs completely with Hurtigruten in that regard.
For instance, friends on the Galapagos sailings can add on visits to the Ecuadorian Chocó, Andes Mountains or Amazon area. They’ll additionally go to Lima or the Inca ruins in southern Peru or the espresso farms of Colombia, which strengthens the general providing.
How does Hurtigruten plan to spice up sustainability efforts?
For starters, the corporate doesn’t use heavy gasoline oil. As a substitute, we use the costlier marine gasoline oil, which is the cleanest fossil gasoline that can be utilized to energy a ship and is significantly better for the atmosphere. Hurtigruten constructed the world’s first battery operated hybrid ship, the MS Roald Amundsen, which cuts emissions considerably. It was adopted by sister-ship MS Fridtjof Nansen and the not too long ago upgraded MS Otto Sverdrup.
As well as, the corporate makes use of meals waste to supply bio diesel that fuels each the expedition and coastal Norway ships, and lots of have battery packs.
We’re within the means of retrofitting our older ships with six of the seven Norwegian coastal ships being up to date now that includes new battery packs and compulsion programs. These lower CO2 emissions by 25% and brings carbon dioxide emission down by greater than 80%.
Metropolitan Touring has its personal sustainability focus together with offsetting carbon emissions and buying and managing endangered, biodiverse forests.
By 2030, Norwegian Coastal Specific can have its first emission-free ship crusing alongside the Norwegian coast.
Is it true that you’ve led some excursions your self?
Sure! I commonly be a part of completely different Hurtigruten sailings to assist the staff and be taught from our clients. Generally, I function a information in locations like Antarctica and have a certificates to drive the tender boats. It’s a good way to be taught extra about what our clients and staff need and want.
Some cruise strains are dropping masks mandates. What about Hurtigruten?
The corporate follows native laws in every market so if that vacation spot requires masks, then they’re wanted on board. If not, then no. It’s a mixture of worldwide and native legal guidelines relying on the purpose of departure and the place the ship goes.
We imagine masks will likely be passed by early spring or summer time as extra international locations drop these necessities. With PCR testing tools on board, our ships in Antarctica take a look at day by day for the primary 5 days of the crusing, which helped to maintain the numbers down considerably. Covid is right here to remain. We’ve got to be taught to reside with it, however a softening of worldwide laws will make it simpler.