Richard Branson Allegedly Looks to Cruising for Next Travel Venture

Skift Take

After two years of illness and bad press, the cruise industry is ripe for disruption, but Virgin’s drawn-out entrance into the hotel sector suggests we won’t see Branson at the helm of any ships for several years.

— Samantha Shankman

The cruise industry could be the next travel sector to receive the Richard Branson treatment.

Sky News reported last month that Virgin Group appointed U.S. advisory firm Allen & Co to lead development on a large commercial cruise operation that would compete with the likes of Carnival and Caribbean.

Virgin executives have allegedly talked to banks about raising an estimated $1 billion of debt to purchase the company’s first ships.

A Virgin Group spokesperson would not comment on the article, but provided the following statement on the company’s approach:

Virgin is exploring a number of opportunities within the leisure sector — including hotels and cruises. We believe both markets lend themselves to creating a new proposition based on Virgin’s history of doing things differently.

Can Branson do for cruising what he did for flying?

“This is all highly speculative,” says Carolyn Spencer Brown, Cruise Critic‘s editor-in-chief, “but we really feel like there is room for anyone to try something new. I think it’s exciting.”

Branson might want to his research on easyJet Stelios Haji-Ioannou’s failed cruising venture easyCruise. The floating hostel targeted young budget travelers who enjoy spending more time on shore than on the ship. The venture lasted less than 5 years.

Virgin Hotels

The possible plans for a new Virgin travel ventures leads to the question of when the brand’s first hotel will finally open its doors.

A Virgin group spokesperson says Virgin Hotels is in “construction mode.”

The first property is said to open in Chicago sometime in 2014 with a second property planned for the NoMad area of New York City.

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