Opportunity between Rail (the most sustainable mass transport) and the cruise Industry

By Javier Marin Martinon, Commercial and sales director RENFE

Javier, how are you linked to cruise industry? I was a proud member of the cruise industry for 10 years when I had the opportunity lead several different areas: Strategy, Itinerary Planning or Sales at Pullmantur and Croisières de France, brands of the Royal Caribbean portfolio.

What was your main learning in this period?
I had the chance to work hand by hand with some of the greatest leaders of the industry and to learn from those different perspectives how the cruise industry was focused on delivering the best memorable experience to their guests.
Everybody knows about the efforts of the industry about the guest experience, however I was much more impressed with the shared feeling about the importance on developing and improving the social footprint.
All the cruise lines develop ambitious programs to protect oceans and the environment, leveraged by all their teams and cutting-edge technology. But also, I had the chance to be working hand by hand with people that beyond the eco-friendly passion or the potential marketing purpose of these programs, they firmly believe on our responsibility to protect the environment in each and every action of our personal and professional life.

How did it help you in this current period at Renfe?
Now, since January 2021, I lead the Commercial and Sales Area are at the largest rail company in Spain, Renfe. Renfe transports more than 500 million passengers every year. I am still very linked to the tourism industry, and luckily, I play a key role on one the best mobility options to fight against climate change. Every year, we avoid 5.7 million tons of CO2 and we save 1.1 million tons of oil, The same as the domestic consumption of 15 million inhabitants.
Both industries share the commitment with climate, but I believe that there is still a big opportunity to improve collaboration between the rail and cruise industry.

How Renfe could support the cruise industry?
Spain usually have more than 500K cruise guests per year. A vast majority of those guests have to travel to reach their homeports and we have the opportunity to encourage them to do it in the most sustainable way of mass transport, the electric high-speed trains with our brand AVE (or even with our low-cost brand AVLO).
Data reflect that Spanish cruise guests preferred an all-in option rather than a more economic option where they have to buy from different players. These options usually are considered as riskier from the cruise lines, and other hand they are usually more expensive for the guests, but the fact is that every time that the travel arrangements have been included in the cruise package for the Spanish market, sales boosted.
On top of that, Spain has one of the best high-speed connectivity worldwide. Actually, we have the second largest high-speed network worldwide, just behind China. Madrid is connected to some of the main Spanish home-ports in something more than 2 hours: Barcelona in 2h30min, Valencia in 1h45m, Alicante 2h16min or Malaga in 2h26m. But also to some other marquee destinations like Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada – and the Alhambra- Zaragoza and coming soon Galicia in less than 3 hours.

What are the main benefits to use a AVE high-speed train to reach their homeports?
Renfe AVE can offer to cruise guests the following benefits with the trip to their homeports:
- Sustainability
. This should keep being the flagship of the cruise industry in the coming years. And, every trip in a high-speed train from Madrid to Barcelona means 85% less CO2 emissions. Actually, AVE is electric and all its energy comes from renewable sources (zero emissions), so all the CO2 footprint comes from the process of construction the renewable energy source.
- AVE’s Punctuality commitment: One of the most popular benefits of AVE, reinforced by our own commitment of 50% cash refund in case of a 15-minute delay or 100% cash refund in case of a 30-minute delay.
- Flexibility: Renfe is operating now 42 trains every day between Madrid-Barcelona (more than a train per hour), and this service will grow once all the routes are resumed after the pandemic. Each train has capacity for ~400 passengers, with option to double it. We have option for maximum flexibility to change the train without cost even in case of losing the train.
- Comfort: Luggage policy in AVE with 3 pieces of luggage up to 25kg per person included in any ticket and great spacious seats
- Great Service: Experience can start onboard a train, with customization of the train or using our premium service: VIP lounges or onboard menus designed by a 2-Michelin star chef, Ramón Freixá.

A wish for the coming year?
Given my background, I would really wish that Rail and cruise industry keep sharing a common goal of developing the tourism industry, and cruise industry in particular, while leading the sustainability mindset and encouraging the environment protection. But, we need both industries working closer to grow the volume of cruise guests that every year take their cruises in the Spanish ports.