Luxury cruise line business sets course for £60m turnover

A Chorley luxury cruise company that only set sail in business in 2020 is on course for £60m in planned sales.

Panache Cruises turned over £10m last year, and grew its team from 14 to 40.

The e-commerce business has received more than £1m in backing, including £500,000 from Rosebud Finance on behalf of Lancashire County Council, the largest investment the local authority has made to a business based in the county.

The team behind Panache has bold ideas for the future with a business plan which predicts the creation of 100 jobs by 2027 with annual sales revenue of £60m by that point.

Luxury cruising is booming with demographic and societal trends combining to create major opportunities for businesses like Panache Cruises.

Around 250,000 Britons booked cruises in 1995, but by 2019 that number had increased to more than two million.

Panache Cruises founder, James Cole, said he is buoyed by the number of new luxury cruise ships currently being constructed in shipyards – which makes him confident in predicting the future for Panache Cruises.

He said: “The cruise industry is supply led which really does make it possible to predict the future with some degree of certainty, much more so than in many other sectors.

“It takes years to plan and build ships so they have to be planned well in advance, which allows us to look into the future and understand what the market will look like in a few years’ time.

“The number of luxury cruise ships currently being built will mean there is at least double the number at sea in another four or five years than there was pre-pandemic.

“For example, if we take our top six luxury cruise line partners, we were able to sell holidays on board 28 ships when we started Panache in 2020. But by 2027 we will be able to book customers onto 56 luxury vessels. It means we are able to make very confident business projections.”

Luxury and ultra-luxury smaller ships with fewer passengers have other advantages, too, with smaller vessels able to access shallow inlets and harbours in far away spots which would be impossible for massive cruise ships to access.

One example is the Antarctic region which is becoming increasingly popular as a luxury cruise destination.

The effects of the pandemic also means more customers want to travel in smaller groups, which is also giving the small ship luxury market a boost.

There are definite signs that some customers are moving from 6,000-passenger ships to much smaller ships, with all Panache Cruises holidays sailing on board ships of a maximum 1,200 passenger capacity.

Mr Cole also believes the luxury cruise sector is a natural evolution of the wider cruising industry as passengers become increasingly discerning in their appetites when planning their dream escape.

He has recruited an expert team of ‘cruise connoisseurs’ who are able to answer customer queries on every aspect of luxury cruising.

Mr Cole said: “Our customers want to talk to a real person so we don’t have automated phone lines or anything like that. If you call us you speak to a colleague who has expert knowledge of cruises and can offer genuine insight into the experience.”

And he added customers aren’t necessarily super rich, but instead are typically hard working people who find they have some time on their hands and have a desire to see the world while enjoying some luxury along the way.

An ageing population also means there is no shortage of retired or semi-retired people who are discovering the delights of luxury cruises to exotic destinations and the all inclusive nature of luxury cruise holidays allows passengers to book with a clear understanding of how much they will spend.

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