Interview with Wybcke Meier, CEO TUI Cruises

2016 marks the second year in which Wybcke Meier has successfully managed TUI Cruises in her role as CEO of TUI Cruises. The cruise company has continued its positive development and provides a lasting contribution to the Group’s growth. With Mein Schiff 5 joining its fleet, TUI Cruises has significantly expanded its capacity. In the interview, Wybcke Meier talks about growth at TUI Cruises, quality and how to stand out from other cruise lines.

Ms Meier, the Mein Schiff fleet has had excellent occupancy rates this far. Cruises are increasingly popular among holidaymakers. You are now about to launch Mein Schiff 5. Are cruises a sure-fire recipe for success? What will you have to do to fill this ship before she sets sail?

In my view, cruises are among the greatest and most convenient holiday types, for every single holidaymaker. They offer a perfect combination of diversity and a yearning for days at sea. Today, every traveller will find the perfect ship. Accordingly, the number of cruise passengers has tripled over the past ten years. However, in relation to the more than 50 mio. German tourists booking a package holiday, the cruise sector is still a niche market with 1.8 mio. passengers. We therefore need new ships to inspire even more customers.

How do you define your target group, and how are you planning to win new customers?

TUI Cruises is aimed at every traveller who attaches particular importance to personal choice, generosity, quality and individual service. The average cruise passenger in Germany is around 51 years old. We therefore have a good mix of guests from different age brackets aboard our ships, including couples and families. Our product concept is very popular among our customers, as is demonstrated by the consistently high customer satisfaction rates and repeat rate: we have more than 40 per cent of repeat customers. And our new offerings such as the Full Metal Cruise or Yoga cruises also raise the attention of holidaymakers who previously did not consider going on a cruise.

What makes Mein Schiff 5 stand out from its predecessors? What are the innovative features your customers may look forward to?

Although the vessel’s exterior is structurally identical, we create new and innovative features for our customers. Mein Schiff 5 features the same generous outer decks and the unique 25-metre pool, while, for instance, the reception area has been redesigned. With a Nespresso Boutique and Thalia Reading Lounge, we have created an attractive place of retreat. Mein Schiff 5 also offers a broader range of restaurants: an Italian osteria, The Austrian-inspired “Schmankerl” and the “Hanami” by Tim Raue at the stern of the vessel expand culinary diversity on board. We have placed an emphasis on culture with the new studio, a multi-functional concert hall with a mobile holographic stage for 3-D performances of well-known artists such as musical star Ute Lemper, legendary stage comic Dieter Hallervorden, cellist Jan Vogler or breakdance world champions Flying Steps.

What makes TUI Cruises’ vessels so unique? What is your winning formula, and what makes you stand out from your competition?

We offer our customers individual, unique feel-good holidays. Our premium all-inclusive (PAI) holiday concept provides us with a USP in the German-speaking cruise market. PAI characterises the atmosphere on board, as most services are included in the price of the cruise – at a high level, starting from the culinary offering via branded beverages in one of the many bars all the way to the entertainment programme or a visit to the sauna world. Our guests also benefit from flexible dining, which means no pre-assigned seating and no fixed dining times. This creates exceptional relaxation and has a huge impact on the atmosphere on board, which is also characterised by a generous ratio of space per passenger. More than 80 per cent of all cabins on board our new ships have a balcony, and the public areas also offer sufficient space for our guests to retreat.

Further ships for the fleet are on their way or being planned. What is you long-term plan for your fleet?

Our corporate goal is to increase our market share in the German-speaking source market to around 30 per cent based on an expansion of our fleet to six ships. To that end, we will commission Mein Schiff 6 in 2017. For 2018 and 2019 we are planning to launch two additional new builds. They will successively replace Mein Schiff 1 and Mein Schiff 2, which will be transferred to Thomson Cruises in the future. With this modern fleet of six ships, we intend to participate in market growth in the long term.

What is your favourite place on board? And what is the absolute highlight aboard Mein Schiff 5 that passengers must not miss in any case?

I have got many favourite places on board, but a special place I keep visiting is the so-called lookout on deck 15. It offers a sensational 360-degree view of the sea. Guests travelling with Mein Schiff 5 should not miss the “Hanami” by Tim Raue in any case, located in a premium location in the “diamond” at the stern of the ship. The Berlin-based star cook offers excellent cuisine, worth every single euro additionally spent. Guests also benefit from a view of the sea – a perfect combination!