Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. today provided a business update to analysts and investors. This is the third update the company has provided to analysts and investors in an effort to keep them informed about the impact of September 11. The following comments were made on today's conference call.
Prior to September 11, Royal Caribbean's booked ticket revenue for the first quarter of 2002 was 33 percent ahead of bookings for the first quarter of 2001 at the same time last year. Following September 11, there was a substantial drop in bookings and an increase in cancellations. After the initial trauma, bookings gradually improved, prompted initially by substantial discounts.
Starting in mid-November, pricing began to recover and discounts have been falling.
New bookings over the last 10 weeks of 2001 were up 46 percent over the prior year and cancellations have returned to normal levels.
Booking patterns, which shifted to closer-in sailing dates following September 11th, are also beginning to return to pre-September 11 patterns. During the call, the company took the unusual step of disclosing booking and discount information.
Year-end weekly data showed that booking volumes for the first quarter sailings were running 33 percent ahead of last year, with discount levels on new bookings about 7 percent higher.
As of December 28, 2001, load factors were lower by 3, 8, 3 and 2 percentage points for the next four quarters, respectively, when compared to the prior year. The company's capacity is increasing 23.3 percent for the first quarter of 2002 and 15.3 percent for the full year
Based upon recent booking trends, management currently estimates that net yields for the first quarter of 2002 will be down 10 - 15 percent from 2001 and improve in each quarter thereafter. The wave period, traditionally the time of the cruise industry's highest booking levels, starts this week. The strength of bookings during this year's wave period will be an important factor in determining 2002 net revenue yields.
Richard Fain, chairman and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., said that "the ongoing recovery in booking trends is especially encouraging when coupled with the steady drop in discounting levels over the last two months. This improving situation gives us increased confidence in our ability to build on this solid base and deliver long-term value to our shareholders."
"The agreed combination with P&O Princess will allow us to further accelerate these returns to shareholders. We believe the combination is in the best interest of both companies' shareholders, and are looking forward to the consummation of the merger."