Tuesday, 4 August 2015

RCCL execs pleased with pricing-discipline policy

RCCL execs pleased with pricing-discipline policy


Royal Caribbean’s campaign to curb last-minute deep discounts is off to a good start.

So say top execs at Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., who had several things to say about what they’re calling Royal’s “price integrity policy,” in talking to Wall Street analysts last week.

Starting in March, Royal said it would stop filling its ships by offering very low prices within a month of sailing. Depending on the itinerary, Royal said it would stop discounting either 10, 20 or 30 days before the ship leaves the dock.

In an earnings call with analysts, Royal Chairman Richard Fain said the company was extending the policy in some cases to apply to bookings within 40 days of departure.

That is what is called incremental progress. If Royal sticks with it, there may be positive results for both Royal and travel agents.

Fain said that Royal is trying hard to be more consistent in its pricing, in part to keep travel agents in its corner.

“There's probably one thing that frustrates the travel agents that we work with as much as anything else, [and it] is those late last-minute discounts,” he said. “And we can't afford to frustrate them.”

A bit later in the call, CFO Jason Liberty raised a second reason why curbing the deep-discount cycle will benefit Royal.

“It's really very important to the branding,” said Liberty. It lacks credibility, Liberty said, to contend that you are a brand that is high quality and has high respect in the industry — “and you can have us for half-price.”

“So the ability to maintain your image as a higher-quality product, which really has to permeate everything you do, is probably a big driver, as big a driver of our thinking as anything else,” Liberty said.

Fain said Royal recognizes that the policy is costing money in the short term. But Royal’s second-quarter earnings were up 34% from a year ago, so any losses are being offset elsewhere.

“It's still early days, but the impact we have seen from a load factor perspective is relatively small, and it's in line with our expectations,” Fain said.