Princess Cruises UK & Europe sales director Nick Hughes is to join Scenic Group UK in January as director of sales, partnerships and strategic growth for Scenic and Emerald Cruises UK & Ireland.
He will report to Nichola Absalom, who has been promoted to UK managing director, sales and marketing.
Hughes will be based in Manchester and will have responsibility for the lines’ eleven-strong sales and partnership team.
Absalom, who has worked for the Australian-owned river cruising, yachting and escorted touring brand for 10 years, stepped up to UK sales and marketing general manager in May following the departure of managing director Richard Twynam after just six months. She has spent the last three years in a global role overseeing brand and marketing.
Former head of sales Andrea Stafford left in August to join AmaWaterways.
Hughes will start his new role in January after joining Princess 13 months ago. He was previously sales director for dnata Travel UK, looking after brands including Gold Medal, Cruise Plus, Pure Luxury and Incredible Journeys.
Absalom said: “We are delighted that Nick has agreed to join us at such an exciting and important time for our brands. We are eyeing significant growth over the next few years, with more exciting plans still to come, following the recent addition of our beautiful new ocean ships, Scenic Eclipse II and Emerald Sakkara, this year.
“He brings significant expertise, industry knowledge and experience to support the ambitious growth we have for our business in 2024 and beyond and I am looking forward to working closely with Nick to achieve this.”
Speaking exclusively to Travel Weekly, Absalom added: “There is huge potential for growth in the UK that’s going to come from agents and we needed that next level strategic and partnerships director to drive that.
“This is a real step-change for us. With Nick’s experience both at Princess and dnata Travel UK before that, we are really excited to work in partnership with him.
“We believe his appointment really demonstrates our ambition and intent. We have real momentum at the moment and that will be boosted further when Nick starts.”
Hughes said: “It is a really exciting time to join the Scenic Group, Nichola and her teams in the UK & Ireland. The guest experiences they deliver are truly market-leading and highly desirable. I’m looking forward to working with the team to spearhead our ambitious plans.
“Travel agents and tour operator partners are central to building the business for Scenic and Emerald Cruises. The consumer demand is there, our mission is to support our industry partners both existing and new, and help them to build their knowledge and confidence so they can help create stories for life for their customers with Scenic & Emerald. This is going to be a real privilege.”
Eithne Williamson, vice-president, Princess Cruises UK & Europe, said: “It’s been a great year for the Princess UK and Europe sales team and we are thankful for the wealth of knowledge and experience that Nick brought to the team. Whilst he will be missed at Princess, having the opportunity for wider remit with a smaller privately-owned business that is closer to home is one Nick couldn’t turn down.
“We wish him well in his future as we look forward to continued success of Princess supported by our brilliant partnerships with valued travel agents.”
Williamson added: “Princess will be recruiting for the sales director role, starting internally by looking across our valued and talented employees at Carnival.”
Absalom said Scenic and Emerald’s strategic objectives were to increase market share through the agents that it already works with and to drive new business from agents including the growing number of homeworkers post-pandemic.
“That will definitely be one of Nick’s priorities,” she said, adding that increasing the company’s product awareness training and fam trip programme was another of the company’s goals for 2024.
Absalom also promised to “ramp up” activity for the wave period to ensure agents are aware of the Scenic and Emerald offering.
The company hosted 200 agents on its new Scenic Eclipse yacht around the UK this year in ports including Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dublin.
It also took 10 agents on a full fam trip from Dublin to Plymouth and said it would try to host even more this year.
Absalom added: “The UK is a hugely important part of our business, in fact, 20% of all global sales for Scenic are from the UK, and 45% of global sales for Emerald are from Brits. And within both of those, about half of all sales come via agents versus direct.
“There’s clearly a step change in the business and, working with Nick and the rest of the team, I am hungry and eager to drive it. It’s been a challenging time and we’ve been left with rebuilding the business but it’s very exciting.”