The Costa Concordia disaster has not dented customers’ confidence and cruise bookings are already ahead of forecasts, the company’s chief executive has claimed.
Pier Luigi Foschi said the tragedy, which claimed 32 lives when the vessel ran aground off Italy in January, had not deterred passengers making reservations on Costa Crociere’s other ships.
He insisted that the shipwreck, which forced more than 4,000 passengers and crew to abandon ship, was a “single, tragic accident” and urged customers’ to “come with confidence”.
Mr Foschi admitted that sales had slumped in the immediate aftermath of the Costa Concordia sinking but that they were now higher than this time last year, despite the recession.
He told The Independent: “Starting from the middle of March we resumed our marketing activity. Bookings now are higher than we forecast, and higher than they were a year ago. The [customers] who knew us in the past have been loyal.
“In Italy there has been no loss of confidence in Costa. France has been good to us. In Germany there was a pause but it's picking up again.”
Addressing British travellers, he added: “Come with confidence. This was a single, tragic accident unfortunately due to human error.”
The Costa Concordia was wrecked on January 13 when it hit a reef near the island of Giglio off the Tuscan coast and capsized in an accident investigators say was caused when its captain Francesco Schettino took the ship too close to shore.
Capt Schettino is now under house arrest facing criminal charges including manslaughter and abandoning the ship as she began to sink, before it had been evacuated.
Weeks later another ship from the Costa fleet, the Allegra, was disabled when a fire broke out in the engine room in the Indian Ocean and had to be towed to the Seychelles.
Mr Foschi made the comments as the firm took delivery of its new flagship liner on Saturday – the 114,500-tonne Costa Fascinosa.
The ship’s maiden voyage sails from Venice on Friday to Croatia, Greece, Turkey and Israel.
Seven new safety procedures have been introduced to address the shortcomings exposed by the loss of the Concordia.
The company has promised to introduce a real-time route-monitoring system, which will be later adopted by parent group Carnival Corporation & Plc, and a system to increase sharing of the ship's navigation plan between the captain and the officers.
“We can't ignore the January accident. It hit us hard. We are working on safety issues," Mr Foschi said.
"We do not want to radically change the responsibilities of the captain but simply allow other officers to give opinions," Mr Foschi said.
Some of the Concordia officers have said they raised the alarm day but that Schettino dismissed the scale of the danger.