Future of Travel: Game-changing digital innovation from MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises is the world’s largest privately-owned cruise line and brand market leader, sailing to over 150 destinations worldwide, including year-round cruises in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. This month they unveiled their fleet-wide digital innovation programme, MSC for Me, which puts guests truly at the centre of their business and technology investments. We caught up with Luca Pronzati, Chief Business Innovation Officer, for our upcoming report, Future of Travel: Man vs. Machine, and here we share his thoughts on how MSC Cruises are using technology to enhance guest experiences.

First up, can you tell us about why MSC Cruises started out on this journey to invest in digital innovation?

“Over the last few years we’ve really been looking at trends shaping our industry but also our society in general, emerging technologies and the changing expectations of customers. We’ve conducted a lot of research, particularly listening to what our guests are saying,  and we realised that we have to do something different.

Innovation is at the core of what MSC Cruises stand for as a company and our goal  is to address the evolving needs of our guests. This focus on our customers has led to over 800% growth in our first ten years as a business, and what we’re doing now is to develop technology and infrastructure that is capable of meeting the needs of guests for years to come.

At a practical level, ships are becoming bigger and richer to offer a unique hospitality experience at sea. But  this means that providing truly relevant customised experiences for guests is becoming more complicated.  We realise that to really enable guests to get interact with the ship and the crew members in a dynamic way, they need to have easy access to all the information they need for the perfect holiday. That’s why we were pleased to announce our new digital innovation MSC for Me programme this month.”

Understanding what customers today want is a challenge for all businesses, can you share some of your learnings that informed this investment? 

"We carried out extensive research in partnership with Deloitte Digital and identified some really interesting findings. Particularly in regards to the role of technology - technology must enable our crew in providing an even better service to our guests, and ultimately must enrich human contact. We also saw a demand for personalisation and customisation from guests, with more than one in two guests looking at customising their holiday experience both before and during their cruise (59%). Complexity was another issue we uncovered. With over 170 different nationalities on board, making sure we’re providing relevant information based on these different profiles is a real need."

How has this knowledge of your customers influenced the end result, MSC for Me?

"We’ve incorporated all our findings into the features of MSC for Me, such as Concierge, which allows guests to easily book services, 24/7, in real time, or TailorMade, our digital personal advisor which provides tailored recommendations based on preferences. Connectivity to enhance the digital customer experience was another key finding of our research, so we’ve leveraged technologies that might be used in smart, connected cities, but with the added complexity of being at sea. In fact, some of the technology on board will be available for the first time ever on a cruise ship. Before, guests had to visit the front desk to get information, or speak to a crew member, but now we can provide that much more quickly with technology. For example, our Navigation feature provides guests on board with advice, guidance and information on what’s on. The technology is similar to smart maps and helps them find their way on the 300+ metre long ships with a 5 metre precision. It even allows guests to locate their children, as needed."

Finally, what’s the future of travel?

"I'm sure the expectations of guests will be different in 5 or 10 years time, so will new technologies that will further enhance the customer experience.  This is a never-ending story! Companies have to invest in innovation, in transformation to stay on top of the industry. Looking out for partners and learning from emerging trends is essential to offer the best experience to guests, no matter what market they are operating in."

Luca Pronzati is a contributor to the upcoming Future of Travel: Man vs. Machine report, and will be joining us on the 21st March in London at the launch event as a panelist

If you’re interested in coming along, simply sign up here!