Ferry Business - Spring/Summer 2018

International Cruise & Ferry Review Ferry Business 90 amed as one of the world’s top diving and snorkelling destinations thanks to colourful coral reefs that teem with rare marine life and its place on UNESCO´s World Network of Biosphere Reserves, Cozumel is a firm favourite with cruise lines visiting Mexico. In fact the island, which is located to the south east of the Yucatán Peninsula, is home to Mexico’s busiest cruise port and welcomes more than 1,200 ship calls and four million guests every year. While many of these cruise guests are content to spend the duration of their visit participating in water sports, taking a bird- watching tour, exploring the island’s Mayan archaeological sites, or simply relaxing in one of its many restaurants and bars, others prefer to head to Mexico’s mainland. To ensure these passengers can make the most of their limited time during port calls, multiple cruise lines have turned to the services of local fast ferry operator Ultramar. Operational since 2003, Ultramar has more than 19 vessels (varying in capacity from 150-850 passengers) and provides passenger ferry services to locals and tourists between Playa del Carmen Cozumel, and also Cancún and Isla Mujeres. Not only has Ultramar become a vital transport link for locals in Mexico’s state of Quintana Roo, but it is also Mexico´s largest excursion and tour operator for the cruise industry. “We offer a fully integrated service that quickly transports guests to Playa del Carmen in the state of Quintana Roo in mainland Mexico where the most important tourist attractions are,” says German Orozco, CEO of Ultramar. “Our modern ferries shorten the crossing time between the mainland and Cozumel, so cruise lines are able to offer a wide range of excursions to their passengers – some of which they can purchase while onboard our ferries.” Ultramar operates its own ports with car parks, restaurants, boutiques, convenience stores, and bus and taxi terminals. This makes it easy for the company to quickly transport passengers from its ferries to their tour buses, taxis and other forms of transportation. “Our terminals offer a full range of passenger services, and we also provide first- class land transportation and multilingual guides who can take cruise visitors to a wide range of world-renowned venues throughout the Yucatán Peninsula,” says Orozco. “These include Tulum, Coba and Chichén Itzá. Recently, we’ve developed new and innovative tour products, such as the highly successful ‘VIP Tulum and Cenote Swim’ and ‘Cenote Hopping’ excursions.” Providing a fast, frequent and reliable ferry service that is also combined with onshore tour offerings gives Ultramar a valuable competitive advantage, according to Orozco. “Our integrated service allows us to offer cruise lines good prices, so we’ve become one of the country’s most important island transportation links since we started,” he says. “By implementing a strategy comprising modern fast ferries, frequent and convenient departures and competitive rates, we’ve steadily gained 70% market and we now transport around seven million passengers per year. We’ve also earned recognition from cruise operators, winning several awards such as the Caribbean’s Leading Tour Operator of the Year from Carnival Corporation. Last year, Carnival Corporation contracted Ultramar to provide all tour operation services for its five brands that visit Cozumel, including AIDA Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, Holland America Line and Princess Cruises. This account alone represents a 50% increase in Ultramar’s tour operations volume and sales.” However, claims Orozco, it’s not just competitive pricing that has led Ultramar to thrive in Mexico’s travel and tourism industry. Instead, the two fundamental reasons for its success are that it prioritises passenger needs and focuses on being innovative in all areas of its business. “We’re continuously improving our ferries, transportation services, tour products and port infrastructure to make it Ferrying cruise passengers German Orozco talks to Rebecca Gibson about how Ultramar ferries play an important role in helping cruise guests to make the most of their time in Mexico INTERVIEW