In a bold statement of intent, Variety Cruises’ CEO Filippos Venetopoulos told Seatrade he wants the company to be the leader in small ship sustainable cruising and by small he means vessels carrying 100 or fewer passengers.
The 35-year-old’s vision is to operate a fleet of 60 small ships sailing in all seven continents by 2050.
Speaking to Seatrade during a trip to London the third generation Greek to run the family owned business took the helm in July last year following the passing of his father. His grandfather Diogenis founded the company (as Zeus Tours) in 1949.
It was a challenging time for the company which has a fleet of eight small yachts, three sail-assisted and five motor vessels ranging in capacity from 34 to 72 passengers, plus three private yachts.
‘Instead of selling cruise experiences I had to weigh in on managing cash flow, bringing most of our fleet back to Greece for lay-up and unfortunately temporarily down-sizing the company.’
Based on a business model of charters and internationally sold cruises, Variety managed to operate three ships at 80% capacity, he explained.
SAILING ON FOUR CONTINENTS
Now he feels the company has turned the corner and is ramping up planning on operating all but one ship in 2022 across four continents with itineraries covering the Seychelles, Costa Rica and Panama, Siciliy and Malta, Tahiti and the Greek Islands.
The product is very much experience focused, he enthused, ‘we have no swimming pools we just drop anchor and the ocean is our swimming pool.’
Back on the sustainability front, he is working on a decarbonisation of the business – ‘first we are measuring our carbon footprint and once the results are ready by Q1 next year then we start to implement a plan of action.’
Already in the pipeline is a rebrand, a revamping of its online booking system, redefining delivery and amplifying of the experiential side of the product which will culminate in March 2022.
Last year, Variety joined Tourism Declares Climate Emergency, developing a year-long plan that aims at protecting the environment.
€5 from every booking goes into the Variety Cruises Foundation “VARIETY CARES” which is focussing on three areas of support: education – a school has been built in Africa -but we want to do more in the destinations we are sailing; diversity & inclusion to support and hire more female executives in both onshore and shipboard positions; and investment in projects to ensure cleaner oceans.
Who is the Variety Cruise passenger? Venetopoulos said pre-COVID they had an average age of 61; now the average age has reduced to 46. He sees the mindset shifting in the younger demographic to wanting to go on smaller vessels and booking much closer to departure. Three main source markets are the US, UK and Australia.
On the expansion front, Variety is looking to move into Alaska, the Galápagos and both polar regions. That would need more investment and purpose-built ships. Variety designed and built in-house the 71-passenger Variety Voyager in Perama, Greece in 2012.
Venetopoulos hopes to be back to full occupancy on the current fleet by 2023 operating all eight for a minimum 290 days a year, ‘which is our sweet operating spot’ he said as he grabbed his jacket and headed out to West London to meet some potential investors.
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