The inaugural event of »Cruise Ship Interiors Expo« will take place on June 18–20 at the Miami Beach Convention Center. HANSA talked to CEO Toby Walters about the market, its potentials and challenges
How do you evaluate the potential of an own expo for cruise ship interiors?
Toby Walters: We are always looking for niche industries which would benefit from having their own event. One of my business partners was responsible for the launch of an interiors event in the aircraft sector and after seeing some of the reports on the cruise industry’s growth we knew that if it didn’t already have its own dedicated event then it definitely needed one. We spoke to a number of designers from the cruise lines, including Petu Kummala of Carnival and it was very clear that this was an event we needed to launch.
What are your goals with the expo?
Walters: Our focus right now is on delivering qualified buyers to the launch event. As a highly focused event we do not want to push the growth too hard and risk becoming another broad show. Our company vision is to organise the leading specialised events in every industry that we operate, so I suppose our goal is to deliver a valuable event for everyone involved.
Is an expansion to other locations, i.e. in Europe or Asia, an option for you?
Walters: Yes, we recently launched Cruise Ship Interiors Expo Barcelona which will take place December 4–5 2019. We launched this event four months ago and it is already 70% sold out.
From which countries or regions do the exhibitors come from?
Walters: The companies are mainly from the USA and Europe. I would say 60% are USA based, 35% Europe based and 5% from the rest of the world.
Can you see a trend to more Asian companies?
Walters: Not right now. We have a number of companies from China coming to the event like HBM but we are yet to see Asian design studios or suppliers coming to the USA to meet with the cruise lines.
Will we see any special features during the expo – which are maybe not that common at other trade shows?
Walters: Absolutely! We have a mini-golf course which will be running a lowest score competition in partnership with a cruise line supplier, Adventure Golf Services. We will also have live product demonstrations taking place around the hall and a series of product launches.
With an eye on the exhibitor list: Do you see a big focus on environmental aspects?
Walters: Yes, especially from the large number of textile, leather and flooring companies. Cruise lines are now looking to move to more sustainable materials that are used onboard which means the suppliers that have invested in making their products more environmentally friendly will be ahead. Companies like Elmo Leather and Dansk Wilton are two prime examples. We also have one of the headline sessions in the conference, which focuses on sustainability in design and operations, where speakers include Fredrik Johannsen of Tillberg Design of Sweden, Francesca Bucci of BG Studio and Lone Ditmer of Dansk Wilton.
How does the growing global trend to intelligent technologies for everyone’s life effect the cruise shipping supplier market?
Walters: I would say that intelligent technology is affecting not just the cruise market, but all markets in a positive way. For example, If cruise lines can now track where passengers are onboard the ship, which restaurants they are eating at and which public areas are busier than others, it allows them to analyse this data and offer a much better service going forward. The cabins are probably seeing the most change as it stands whereby passenger have total control of the lighting, AC, window blinds and can even make restaurant reservations all at the touch of a button.
How does the growing trend to expedition cruises effect the supplier market?
Walters: Well, from the interiors point of view, there are definite trends: the type of cruise guest on board smaller expedition ships expect comfort and luxury, of course, but they also want authenticity. Part of the attraction can be that they are voyaging along famous routes of exploration, so the ship needs to feel ›rugged‹ and instil confidence in its ability to handle rough weather. Materials need to be sustainable and feel natural to the touch, for example.
From your point of view: Does the industry see and react on the trend towards more and more Asian cruise development?
Walters: This is a fast-developing market, but we can already see that Asian cruise guests have slightly different priorities than their American and European counterparts: they appreciate more retail space and a different range of dining experiences. More specifically, there is little appetite for sunbathing among Chinese guests, but there is more demand for picnicking areas. Again, traditional bars serving alcohol are less of a priority but there is greater demand for interactive entertainments such as karaoke or semi-private areas for gaming and socializing, as well as public casinos.
The last three years have seen some of the most iconic ships in the industry deployed into Asian cruising, the refurbishment of ships with the Asian cruiser in mind, and the delivery of the first ships designed and purpose-built with the Asian cruise audience in mind.
What do you think about fears of some international market observers, that the cruise industry is building up a »bubble«?
Walters: It is a question I hear a lot, and a question I often ask my contacts at the cruise line companies. What happens to the older ships when the scheduled newbuilds are completed. It is a question I am yet to have answered so I think we will need to wait and see what happens over the next 2-3 years.
What has been the last and what might be the next »game changer« in the industry for cruise ship interiors?
Walters: I would say that the cruise lines are having to come up with bold new ways to stand out from their competitors. Take Carnival for instance, they have installed a roller-coaster on their latest ship ›Mardi Gras‹ which is the first time in history for a cruise line to have a roller-coaster onboard – if that isn’t a game changer then I don’t know what is.
Interview: Michael Meyer