Ukko Metsola, Vice President, Government Relations, Europe & Asia-Pacific, Royal Caribbean Cruise Ltd.

How long have you been in the cruise industry and what other roles/positions have you held?

I have been involved with Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. for more than a decade, but initially as an outside consultant. I was a partner in a Public Affairs consultancy called Fipra, and RCL was my main client since 2007. A couple of years ago the company decided to insource me to strengthen RCL’s Government Relations capacity in Europe and Asia-Pacific.

Please describe a contribution you or your company has made to the cruise industry that you are proud of.

I am proud of the fact that RCL has been at the forefront of innovation and investment into the best available environmental technologies, for example advanced water and air-emissions purification systems.

Name a “highlight” in your career.

“Our Oceans” Conference in Malta is a highlight during this fall: our President and COO Adam Goldstein will have an opportunity to explain the tangible and ambitious environmental commitments towards Ocean preservation and C02 reduction under our partnership with World Wildlife Fund. Environmental sustainability is one of our core values. The invitation from the top level of the European Commission to participate in this Conference is also a testimony to our long-lasting commitment to work together with all levels of government in Europe and beyond.

What do you believe is the most significant advancement in the cruise industry – specifically in your area of expertise?

Retrofitting advanced emissions purification systems has certainly been the most challenging advancement from the engineering perspective. Our hybrid AEPs (which can be operated in both open and closed loop mode) are arguably the most significant advancement in terms of mitigating sulphur emissions, a key concern for regulators and citizens alike. Educating and informing government officials about the benefits of this innovative European green technology has also been a major work stream for our Government Relations team.  

Who do you believe has made an impact on the cruise industry? Describe how.

The Customer. Today the diversity of different kinds of cruises and ships is staggering. In terms of tourism on the seas, there is literally something for everyone. It is easy to forget how young industry this is, and how quickly it has matured. Customer feedback has undoubtedly played a crucial role in this constant diversification and improvement of our product(s).

What is the biggest challenge in the cruise industry as it relates to your sector and how would you address it?

With the emerging criticism of the impact of mass tourism on certain destinations, our challenge is to educate interested parties that the organized way in which we interact with destinations can provide great opportunities for the cruise sector to bring economic benefits without exacerbating the issues caused by mass land based tourism. At the same time, we also need to develop new destinations, wherever we can. The cruise industry is building around 80 new cruise ships over the next ten years – a total investment of over 50 billion dollars. This calls for significant investments into port infrastructure so that we can develop exciting itineraries in new areas of operation, for example in Asia. This is already happening in many places, but progress could be faster.