Carnival launches ‘voluntourism’ cruise brand

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Greg Miller IHS

05 June 2015

Carnival Corp has unveiled a new cruise brand called 'fathom' geared towards travellers wanting to make a 'social impact' through combing voluntary work with tourism, an activity increasingly known as 'voluntourism'.

Fathom will be launched in April 2016, sailing seven-day voyages from Miami to the Dominican Republic. The 710-passenger, 2001-built Adonia will be redeployed from Carnival Corp's P&O Cruises brand for the start-up. "Fathom will cater to a growing market of consumers who want to have a positive impact on people's lives and aren't always sure where to begin," said Carnival Corp CEO Arnold Donald on 5 June.

According to fathom president Tara Russell, "Because fathom will bring hundreds of travellers to a destination on a regular basis, [it] can achieve focused and holistic, collaborative contributions in a broad region of the country, allowing fathom travellers to make a collective, transformative impact. Fathom will mobilise, educate, and equip up to 700 travellers on every trip, allowing for thousands of impact activity days per week."

According to UBS analyst Robin Farley, "We believe this type of travel could attract first-timers to cruising, who tend to have a high repeat rate." She also pointed out that the brand creates a "new use for old tonnage".

"The fathom concept is perhaps not as scalable as some other brands, since this would be unlikely to work on a 2,000-passenger vessel, but Carnival does have at least two other small, older ships of a similar size that could be added to the brand over time," said Farley in a research note.

According to Wells Fargo analyst Tim Conder, fathom will allow Carnival Corp to tap the existing base of social impact travellers, who are currently active through non-profit organisations such as Habitat Global Village. Conder believes the brand could "reach a new subset of the consumer segment of socially conscious millennials, families, and retirees who may not otherwise consider a cruise vacation".