Interview with Friedrich Joussen about the christening of Mein Schiff 5

Mr Joussen, Mein Schiff 5 will be christened in Travemünde tonight. With the commissioning of the ship, TUI Group’s cruise fleet will grow to 14 vessels. What role does the cruise business play for the Group?

Cruises are a great future market for TUI. Apart from hotels, cruises are our most important growth segment. In a few years’ times, these two segments will account for more than half of our Group’s results. We continue to grow and massively invest in our hotel and cruise portfolio.

TUI is known to many as a tour operator and travel provider. In 2014, after the takeover of the British TUI, activities were launched to transform TUI into an integrated tourism group. Where does TUI stand today?

Today we are the world’s number one tourism group with around 300 Group-owned hotels and clubs, three cruise lines and six airlines with around 140 planes. We are undergoing a transformation from a travel provider to a group developing its own products and services. For us, these are hotels that we build and operate, or modern cruise ships. The Mein Schiff 5 you see today reflects the skills and competence of our employees and their concept of service. The ships are built exactly in line with our own ideas by Meier shipyard in Turku. Each ship is an investment of around half a billion euros. We are basically developing into a hotel and cruise group with direct control of market access – via our tour operators and travel agencies.

Are you planning to maintain your high growth pace in cruises?

Yes, absolutely. By 2019 we will get at least one modern ship delivered every year. Mein Schiff 6 is already under construction and will be delivered by the Turku shipyard next year, to be followed by Mein Schiff 7 and Mein Schiff 8 in 2018 and 2019. TUI Cruises is thus set for growth. Moreover, our British subsidiary Thomson Cruises has initiated the modernisation of its fleet, and in June a further ship was included in its fleet in the port of Palma. I also see great perspectives for the UK market. TUI Group also includes Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, the leading shipping line in the luxury and expedition segment.

What makes Hapag-Lloyd so special?

Hapag-Lloyd has invented modern cruises. Our Hamburg-based subsidiary celebrates its 125th anniversary this year. Today, we own the world’s best cruise ships in the luxury segment with MS EUROPA  and MS EUROPA 2, both of which have received a number of awards. We are thus setting standards, both in luxury and expedition cruises and with our Mein Schiff fleet.

Do you not fear market saturation?

No, I don’t. Europeans have lagged far behind Americans in discovering cruises. And this type of travel primarily attracted elderly people for a long time. This is changing: more and more families and younger people are discovering cruises. Today’s cruises constitute modern city breaks providing passengers with the opportunity to discover several countries within eight or 14 days, on board an extremely comfortable, modern cruise ship offering sports, wellness and leisure activities similar to a real hotel. Cruises therefore attract a broad target audience today, and are popular among many people within our society. Moreover, people have more time and disposable income available.

Where do cruises in the US differ from European cruises?

In the US, the ships are the event. They are swimming leisure and entertainment parts. You should offer a robot on board to mix and serve cocktails... In Europe, the focus is on the travel itinerary, countries and cities, and, of course, the excursion programme. 

Have you ever tested your successful product yourself?

Yes, I know our ships – also as a guest on board. However, I also know the phase before the passengers go on board, the development and construction of a ship. When you visit the Turku shipyard, you realise how many details are important in order to create something special every time, and that we take a lot of time to incorporate our customers’ wishes in the construction of new ships. In my view, this is one of the secrets of the success of our Mein Schiff” fleet, apart from the service on board. I hope this will continue with Mein Schiff 5.