Eleni P. Kalisch, Vice President, Government Relations, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
Please describe your position and role in the cruise industry.
As Vice President of Government Relations for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., I am responsible for representing the interests of our brands in legislative and regulatory matters with the U. S. Federal government, each of the 50 State governments, and the Canadian government. I work closely with the Government Relations representatives of other cruise lines, and with CLIA, to ensure that our voice is heard on matters impacting our policies, procedures and operations. I believe it is critical to our success as an industry that we develop and maintain positive working relationships with lawmakers so that they can advocate on our behalf when needed. A significant part of my job is cultivating those relationships.
How long have you been in the cruise industry and what other roles/positions have you held?
Last month, I celebrated my 10 year service anniversary with Royal Caribbean. It is true what they say … time really does fly when you are having fun!
Please describe a contribution you or your company has made to the cruise industry that you are proud of.
As is true of the cruise industry as a whole, Royal Caribbean is dedicated to supporting those communities around the world where we do business. I am so impressed with the commitment of Royal Caribbean employees to community service -- from protecting the environment to promoting educational programs to raising funds for numerous organizations that benefit local communities where our ships visit. In 2010 following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Royal Caribbean spearheaded the construction of a primary school, educating hundreds of children each year, as well as providing adult vocational training in the evenings. Last year, we entered into a partnership with the World Wildlife Fund to pursue a five-year plan to help ensure the long-term health of the world’s oceans. From the top of our organization down to each and every employee, we understand and embrace the importance of community involvement.
Name a “highlight” in your career.
I am very proud of the working relationship that Royal Caribbean was able to build with the Environmental Protection Agency in developing exhaust gas scrubbing technologies to remove sulfur oxide from our ships’ air emissions. In discussing our cooperative relationship with EPA in meetings on Capitol Hill, many lawmakers are surprised to learn that EPA officials have been supportive of our efforts to develop alternatives means of compliance. I believe that our relationship with EPA is just one example of the power of personal outreach, liaison and collaboration to reach a mutual goal.
Can you describe the importance of advocacy to the industry?
Only through effective advocacy by the cruise lines and our partners will governments and guests around the world understand the extent to which the safety of our ships is monitored and enforced. As an industry, we appreciate that without safe and secure operations of our vessels, no one would want to embark on a cruise vacation and we would cease to exist. As a result, we welcome the intense oversight and regulation of our ships that helps ensure the safety of our guests and crew.
In addition, one of the most effective tools in the Government Relations toolbox for engaging government officials is explaining the economic benefits that the cruise industry provides to their communities. Not only do we create jobs – nearly one million jobs globally at last count – but the cruise lines purchase provisions, and our guests and crew spend money, in the hundreds of destinations we visit globally. The industry’s overall global economic impact is more than $100 billion. Our message is a good one and, through effective advocacy, I believe more and more communities and governments will welcome us to their ports!
Looking forward, what are some predictions for the future in your sector of the cruise industry?
At Royal Caribbean, our leadership understands the value of government outreach and advocacy in ensuring smooth operations around the world. As a result, we have three executives dedicated to Government Relations in different geographic regions of the world. As our fleet continues to grow, and our global footprint along with it, we are certain to encounter legislative and regulatory challenges in emerging markets. The ability to call upon those officials with whom we have established relationships will be invaluable.
Please add any additional thoughts about your perspective as it relates to your role in the cruise industry that may not have been covered above.
I currently serve as Chair of the CLIA Political Action Committee, or CLIA PAC. The PAC is supported through voluntary contributions of cruise industry employees. The PAC is the vehicle by which the industry provides financial support to the campaigns of lawmakers who understand the importance of cruising to the U. S. economy and promote our industry on Capitol Hill. We support both Republicans and Democrats and understand that bipartisan outreach is necessary to effectively advocate the views of the cruise industry. For those reading this, please feel free to contact me if you are interested in supporting the PAC!