Interview: the Country Manager Leonardo Massa

What does MSC mean to you and why did you choose to work with the Company?

I work with MSC thanks to Domenico Pellegrino and Pierfrancesco Vago, with whom I joined the Company in 2003. I consider myself to be part of those lucky people who work with passion and I get this feeling both from my working environment and from the Company itself.

How has cruise sector changed since your recruitment? Do you regret something of the old days?

I think the whole tourist industry has changed a lot. Our Company grew fast and we will keep growing, so it is normal that tourist industry too had some changes. I don’t regret anything, even though I have sometimes seen our agents, who are our usual spokesmen, losing their way for a lack of foresight or for inability of understanding changes.

What is your typical day and which are your responsibilities?

I actually have two kinds of typical day; it depends on where I am and what I have to do. If I’m travelling by plane I have to get up very early and take a huge cup of coffee at the airport lounge, then my journey goes towards either an appointment with a client or a chance to do business, both in Italy and abroad. In Naples I try to make my day start at 8,30 by dropping my kids off at school; then I join my colleagues at the office and we do some good team work to provide new market opportunities.

Your slogan at MSC is: “This is a cruise like no other”. What should customers appreciate and acknowledge in order to make this statement true? What makes an MSC cruise different from the other ones?

I think the main difference lies in what I consider to be the most important feature, that is the crew. Apart from the hardware, the pubs and the Italian character, our crew makes the difference due to its manners and its way of relating with customers. We are sure that MSC Cruises’ values are important because they are based on family; we are a “family company”. Our customer service always makes people feel like being at home while staying on our cruise ships. This is what makes us different from other companies.

Last year on February we had the chance to talk to Jean-Philippe Congnet, Manager of Digital Marketing. He revealed us that it is in MSC intention to use online bookings on the Company’s website. In your opinion, is this process developing? How do you relate with travel websites and travel agencies?

Travel agencies are and will still be the backbone of MSC Cruises distribution. The customer has the right to choose where, when and how he/she will book a cruise. I never liked very much the discrimination between online agencies and traditional agencies because nowadays there is no difference; I think it is a matter of mind boundaries. Customers give a feedback of our cruises both in traditional travel agencies and on websites; the important is that the result is the same. As far as we are concerned, direct selling on our website is real but our aim is to offer the best consultations and advices to our costumers, since they do not find the right information every single time. I believe that these realities can coexist and that there is no attempt to dump clients or overcome one of the distribution channels; furthermore, I think every agency that wishes to be modern, as we are near to 2017, should provide different channels in order to give the customer many ways of booking. The most important thing is the price, which must be exactly identical.

Until not long ago, MSC used to propose themed cruises (art, stars, dancing, wellness, wine and food, fitness, hobby, golf) and cruises dedicated to singles and young adults. Is there any chance that these cruises will be proposed again or are you going to provide new ideas?

Actually, in these past years we have kept providing this kind of cruises but it was not us who have promoted them, we have relied on professional promoters or travel agencies; so aboard there are still themed cruises such as those based on dancing, music, cyclists, wine and wood and many others. But as I said before MSC does not promote them personally, our partners and travel agents advertise them.

The Minister for Tunisian Tourism announced the recovery of relationships with Companies in order to make stopovers come back to the port of Tunis. What can you tell us about MSC’s stance? And what about new destinations as Saranda, a totally new one?

Relative to new destinations as Saranda in Albania, I can say that MSC always seeks innovation and being capable of innovating both in technologies and marketing, and in destinations makes us special. Saranda is a beautiful example of our will to renew our presence in the Adriatic Sea and furthermore bookings for MSC Poesia, which will be reaching this stopover in the summer of 2017, have increased since we have introduced it. In regard to Tunisia, it will be taken back in consideration as soon as our guests are guaranteed the maximum security. We are eager to come back to Tunisia, so we hope that this condition will be satisfied soon.

We watched your performance on the TV show “Undercover Boss” and apart from congratulating you, we would like to know if this experience has changed you a bit and if performing roles of the crew has made you aware of things that maybe you once ignored.

It was an extraordinary experience. Speaking in a professional way, I think I would have never had the possibility to know the “behind the scenes” with such a realism if I had not taken part into the TV show, because a formal visit or an inspection in official capacity would have had a different mark. But what I discovered while being undercover is the thing I have told the agencies for years, that is how fantastic our crew is. The programme was original at 100%, apart from the wig and fake moustache I had to wear, and there is no scene that was taken twice. The behaviour and the dialogues between the people were fully authentic too. As I have already said, I have found out something that is not new to me, that is the crew’s deep attachment to the MSC Company and the customers’ satisfaction. There is no joy greater than this one.

Very frequently the fans ask us if in the future the possibility to book cruises sailing from China with Lirica will be widened also to non-natives. Will Splendida be the first one to offer this kind of opportunity? And can you tell us something about the dedication of one of the new ships to the East market, as many Companies nowadays do?

Definitely Far East represents a huge opportunity for the developing of the fleet, if we refer to the industrial plan of the next eleven ships that are to be realized by 2024. Speaking in terms of strategy I hope that the future, even if it is mainly suited for the Chinese market, will set aside some new itineraries for Italian and European markets. So yes, I hope that destinations sailing from Far East will be also available for non-Chinese customers. And certainly MSC will not realize this plan within weeks or months, but I can assure you that something will happen.