Josh Leibowitz, a former partner at consulting firm McKinsey & Company, has been named president of ultra-luxury cruise line Seabourn.
Leibowitz will oversee all aspects of the brand’s operations, including revenue management, deployment and itinerary planning, hotel operations, and sales and marketing. He will report to Stein Kruse, group CEO of Holland America Group and Carnival UK.
Based in Seattle, Seabourn is a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation & plc, the largest cruise ship operator in the world. Seabourn has five ships, with cruises ranging from 7-day jaunts to 100-day global trips. The company positions itself in the ultra-luxury category, with all-oceanfront suites, world-class all-inclusive dining, and complimentary premium spirits. Travelers can expect to pay around $550 per night on a Seabourn cruise, according to website ShermansTravel.
Leibowitz replaces Richard Meadows, who retires after 9 years as president of Seabourn, and 35 years at Carnival.
Leibowitz joined Carnival in 2013 as its chief strategy officer. In 2016, he was also named SVP for Cunard North America, overseeing the brand’s operations in the region.
Prior to joining Carnival, he spent 12 years at McKinsey, where he was managing partner of the firm’s Miami office. He also co-led the e-commerce and multichannel marketing and operations practice across the travel & hospitality and retail sectors.
Before that, he was a managing director at tech incubator Idealab and a lead consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton. Leibowitz holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Chicago.
“I am confident that Josh will help carry Seabourn through the challenges currently facing the travel industry to build on its longstanding reputation as an ultra-luxury travel brand unlike any other, supported by a team of people whose everyday focus is on delivering the best,” Kruse said.
Added Leibowitz, “Our main priority will be working together as we develop plans to resume operations and welcome our past and future guests onboard to create lasting travel memories.”
The cruise line industry has been devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic, with some analysts questioning whether companies can survive the ongoing crisis. Global cruise ships have been docked for months, with governments issuing “no sail” policies, and most cruise lines have been bleeding cash as revenues drop precipitously. Carnival, for example, is burning through $1 billion a month to maintain its fleet.
The company reported a $2.4 billion loss in Q2 2020, with total revenue down $4.8 billion to $700 million. The company’s stock price fell from a $51.90 on January 17, 2020 to a nadir of $7.97 on April 2, 2020. The Carnival Corp stock price was $15.88 as of July 2, 2020.
Cruise lines don’t plan to start sailing until at least fall of 2020, depending on government restrictions. And though cruise travelers are famously loyal, there are real doubts about whether they will return in the “new normal.” Is a cruise trip still fun or a good idea when it is punctuated by social distancing, fear, and public shaming over behavior deemed reckless or imprudent? Is it financially viable with reduced capacity? Is a cruise vacation something that can be rationally attempted prior to a Covid-19 vaccine?
Cruise operators certainly hope so. For now, their leaders are faced with perhaps one of the toughest business challenges in a pandemic-altered economy, alongside airlines, resorts and venues, and hotels.