We Are Deeply Dedicated To Responsible Tourism
Read this exclusive interview with Jurgen Bailom, President and CEO of Waterways Leisure, Cordelia Cruises.
In this exclusive interview, Jurgen Bailom, President and CEO of Waterways Leisure, Cordelia Cruises, provides valuable insights into the cruise industry's evolution within the Indian market. Bailom shares the company's journey, strategic positioning, and its commitment to responsible tourism.
Cordelia Cruises has made significant strides in the Indian cruise industry since its launch. Can you share the journey and vision of Cordelia Cruises thus far?
Since our launch, we've been dedicated to redefining the cruising experience in the Indian cruise industry by creating unforgettable journeys that embody exploration, and discovery. From the moment passengers step on board, we transport them to a world of comfort and adventure, with every detail meticulously designed to exceed expectations. Our vision is to be India's pride in the global cruise industry, transforming how Indians perceive and experience vacations, and offering the best of Indian hospitality, cuisine, and entertainment. We have served over 4 lakh guests, completed more than 200 sailings, and covered 7 domestic ports, and 3 international ports. We're expanding our routes, including new sailings to Dubai in June 2023, and plan to launch 3 more ships by the end of 2025. Our growth is a testament to our team's passion, hard work, and the trust our passengers place in us.
As the President and CEO, what strategies have you employed to position Cordelia Cruises as a prominent player in the Indian cruise market?
At Cordelia, we've positioned ourselves as a leading and exclusive player in the Indian cruise market by following a multifaceted approach centred on innovation, customer-centricity, and collaboration. Our commitment is to provide travellers seeking authentic and immersive journeys with unique and captivating itineraries that showcase the rich cultural diversity and natural beauty of India and Sri Lanka. We're deeply dedicated to responsible tourism, actively forging local partnerships and engaging in community development projects to leave a positive impact on the regions we visit. Our unwavering focus on ensuring the utmost comfort, top-notch accommodations, exceptional dining experiences, and VIP-level service sets Cordelia apart. This dedication to excellence creates loyal customers who get to enjoy the very best of Indian hospitality, entertainment, and cuisine while exploring a diverse selection of domestic and international ports.
India has immense untapped potential for the cruise industry. How do you plan to leverage this potential for Cordelia Cruises' growth?
India has the potential to become a significant player in the global cruise tourism industry with the intention to boost cruise passenger traffic from 0.4 million to 4 million. Cordelia Cruises aspires to aid this vision by bringing a cruise culture tailored to India, exploring several destinations within a week drawing explorers to our national resources, and rendering an unforgettable experience. Catering to foreign tourists, we also aim to reintroduce NRIs to their roots and enable every citizen to bask in India’s cultural glory, creating an industry that supports India by currently employing over twenty thousand people and the potential to create two million jobs. We at Cordelia Cruises are determined to play a pivotal role in India's ambition to become a major player in global cruise tourism. Our mission is to curate itineraries that span different regions, highlighting the diverse cultural, historical, and natural treasures of India. We are committed to promoting responsible tourism practices and believe that by doing so, we can unlock the untapped potential of India's cruise industry.
Cordelia Cruises places a strong emphasis on providing unforgettable cruise experiences. Could you elaborate on some unique features and offerings that set your cruises apart from the competition?
We at Cordelia take pride in offering exceptional dining options that cater to a diverse range of tastes. From authentic Indian cuisine to international delicacies, our onboard restaurants ensure a memorable culinary journey for our guests. To keep our passengers entertained throughout their voyage, we curate a vibrant lineup of Indian entertainment. One of our standout marketing strategies is to highlight our exceptional dining options, entertainment, enriching activities, and immersive cultural experiences. Even though our services are international, we always maintain the essence of Cordelia which is the Indianness or the feeling of having a home away from home. We pride ourselves on the unparalleled experience an Indian cruise offers, catering to Indians regardless of where we sail to.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on the travel and hospitality sectors, including the cruise industry. How did Cordelia Cruises adapt to these challenges?
During the challenging period of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global cruise industry, including the Indian cruising sector, faced significant obstacles. However, at Cordelia Cruises, as a domestic cruise player, we recognized a unique opportunity to meet the desires of Indian travellers who were eager for a vacation getaway. Our goal was clear: to offer a comprehensive cruise holiday experience that prioritized the health and safety of our guests. Thus, in September 2021, we set sail on Indian shores. We firmly believe in the immense potential of India as a major cruise destination, given its stunning coastline, serene islands, and rich cultural heritage. In the midst of the pandemic, when outbound travel was restricted, Cordelia Cruises played a pivotal role in boosting tourism growth within the country. Notably, cruise tourism not only rebounded but also experienced a remarkable 100% growth, indicating a growing trend among Indians to embrace cruising as a lifestyle choice, often with family and friends. We take pride in contributing to the resurgence of the cruise industry and offering travellers the chance to explore the captivating coastal wonders of India.
Sustainability and responsible tourism are increasingly important in the travel industry. How does Cordelia Cruises incorporate these principles into its operations?
Cruise tourism relies heavily on the natural beauty of coastal and marine destinations. Cordelia Cruises recognizes the importance of protecting these fragile ecosystems. We support and adhere to international agreements and guidelines to protect marine life, coral reefs, and sensitive coastal areas.
We have implemented various initiatives to minimise our ecological effects and promote a cleaner future. Additionally, we have established an efficient waste management system to ensure responsible disposal of waste, preventing any harm to the marine environment. Moreover, we are committed to reducing the effects of heavy fuel oil (HFO) on the marine ecosystem by employing alternative fuel sources and implementing measures to lower greenhouse gas emissions. To conserve water resources, we have a Reverse Osmosis water management plant on board, enabling us to convert seawater into drinking water, ensuring a sustainable supply for our guests and crew.
We at Cordelia Cruises conduct regular training programs to educate our crew members about sustainable practices, waste management, and environmental conservation.
Can you share some insights into the kinds of experiences and destinations that Cordelia Cruises offers to its passengers?
At Cordelia Cruises, we understand that the itinerary plays a crucial role in creating unique and memorable experiences for our passengers. We aim to provide our passengers with a well-rounded itinerary that showcases the best each region has to offer. For our Sri Lanka sailings too, we are exploring the most unexplored and appealing ports of Trincomalee, Hambantota, and Jaffna.
Another example of an offbeat location is Lakshadweep, which gives one a chance to explore the cultures and traditions of the island not known to most.
Whether it's exploring historical landmarks, engaging in adventure sports, or simply relaxing on pristine beaches, our shore excursions are designed to provide enriching and immersive experiences that showcase the essence of each destination. While cruising between ports, we offer a range of onboard enrichment programs and entertainment options that further enhance the overall experience like the well-known “Balle-Balle”, The Indian Cinematic, Magic Show, and much more. One can sit at the Chairman’s club with their partner and enjoy live music, whereas the music never stops at the Dome for the party animals.
As a leader in the cruise industry, what are your thoughts on the future of cruise travel, particularly in the Indian market?
There is an increase in demand for personalised, customised, and experience lead offerings and we only expect these aspects to grow from here. To meet the demand for unique experiences, we are expanding our itineraries to include lesser-known destinations. The future will likely witness continued exploration of new destinations and the development of sustainable tourism practices in India.
At Cordelia, we are increasingly targeting multigenerational travellers by offering family-friendly amenities, activities, and services. We are focusing on creating inclusive experiences that cater to the needs and preferences of different age groups. This trend is likely to continue as families seek convenient and diverse travel options that can accommodate everyone.
Cordelia Cruises has made significant investments in its fleet. Could you tell us more about these investments and their role in enhancing passenger experiences?
We have undertaken extensive modernization and refurbishment projects to ensure that our ships are equipped with the latest amenities and technologies. From state-of-the-art fitness centers and wellness spas to immersive entertainment facilities and interactive children's areas, we strive to offer something for everyone on board. Our investments also extend to sustainable practices that minimize our environmental impact. We've integrated advanced technologies to reduce emissions, enhance fuel efficiency, and ensure responsible waste management, aligning with our commitment to preserving the destinations we visit. Ultimately, our investments are a testament to our unwavering commitment to delivering unparalleled cruise experiences that exceed the expectations of our passengers and provide them with memories to cherish for a lifetime.
How important is technology in delivering a seamless and enjoyable cruise experience, and what technological innovations has Cordelia Cruises introduced?
We have developed our entire booking engine and reservation system in India. Since our inception, we have been continuously advancing on technology and tools to embolden our partners and guests. We have developed a mobile application that provides passengers with a range of features and services. For the ease of the customers, we have deployed a payment system that allows users to pay in multiple transactions, which in turn has resulted in one of the highest conversion rates. While we have most of the technology built in-house by our tech team, all our vendors with respect to technology are India-based. We are keen on exploring the Indian startup fever and unicorns. We also have an app that offers functionalities such as online check-in, digital boarding passes, itinerary management, onboard activity schedules, and all the necessary information. It helps to enhance convenience and allows passengers to have information at their fingertips. Other technology such as the cruise card which serves as a personal identification document and will enable passengers to charge shipboard purchases, use it as a cabin key card, and allow the traveller to embark and disembark the ship in ports and act as a souvenir of the wonderful experience customer had onboard.
Education plays a crucial role in shaping one's career. Could you share some insights into how your educational background has influenced your professional journey?
My educational foundation in Business Administration & Tourism from Politechnischer Lehrgang College of Business in Austria provided me with the theoretical knowledge and analytical skills to navigate the complex world of business. Earning a Masters in Business & Tourism from Canterbury further deepened my understanding of the industry's intricacies. Coupled with my certification as a Hotel Administrator (CHA), this education equipped me with the tools to approach challenges strategically, while always keeping the customer experience at the forefront. Throughout my career, I've consistently applied the principles and lessons from my academic journey, enabling me to make informed decisions, drive growth, and lead teams effectively in the dynamic cruise industry.
What advice do you have for aspiring professionals who aim to reach leadership positions in the travel and hospitality industry?
Invest in your education and never stop learning. The industry is dynamic, and staying updated with the latest trends, technologies, and practices is crucial. Start at the grassroots level to truly understand the intricacies of the industry. Gain hands-on experience in different roles and departments, which will provide you with a holistic understanding of how the industry functions. Build a strong professional network by connecting with colleagues, mentors, and industry professionals. Networking can provide you with insights, opportunities, and a supportive community to lean on. The industry can be demanding, but resilience and determination will carry you through challenges. Stay focused on your goals and remain persistent in the pursuit of leadership positions.
Cordelia Cruises aims to provide employment opportunities in the cruise sector. How does the company contribute to skill development and job creation in India?
Cordelia Cruises recognizes the importance of supporting and positively impacting local economies and communities in the port destinations we visit. Across departments - hospitality, entertainment, deck, and engine – 94 per cent of the crew onboard is Indian. The food and beverage offerings span across a wide variety of authentic vegetarian and non-vegetarian, Indian and international fare, all the produce, ingredients, and packaging which is sourced locally. Cordelia has made sure that the people of India do not have to move out of their home countries to experience the cruise work life. They can encounter international exposure here in India itself yet stay connected to their roots.
Cordelia Cruises believes in giving back to the communities that welcome us.
Around The World