Fort Lauderdale, FL — April 3, 2009 — The cruise industry is betting on its future. That is a bet I would take." This was the encouraging message Dan Doctoroff, president of Bloomberg LP, delivered to a record-breaking audience at Cruise Lines International Association's cruise3sixty conference in Fort Lauderdale today.
With American Express as presenting sponsor, registration for the cruise industry's largest annual event topped 2,000 delegates, according to CLIA's president and CEO, Terry Dale. "In any year we would be more than happy with this turnout for cruise3sixty but given current economic conditions, we're ecstatic. We've had a record number of registrations, the largest number of trade show participants ever, and a record level of sponsorship." cruise3sixty is taking place at the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center. In June 2010, it will be held in Vancouver.
Doctoroff, delivering the opening keynote address, told travel agents, cruise line officials and industry suppliers that major innovation driving fundamental change will pull the country out of its current economic turmoil, just as it has repeatedly throughout America's history.
"History has taught us one thing: this too shall pass," he said, citing ten economic crises over 200 years and his personal experience in business and as deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding in New York City after 9/11. Cautioning his listeners that they are not immune to the downturn, he urged them to do two things: not make the crisis worse by doing nothing, and prepare to take full advantage of the recovery.
Noting that "we have always come back stronger," Doctoroff said, "Out of destruction comes creative regeneration." He noted that signs of recovery are already evident as "smaller players" in the financial and other industries around the world have emerged with innovative responses to the current financial and economic conditions. He said that Bloomberg, one of the world's leading information services, news and media companies, was actually hiring 1,000 employees and had signed up 1,800 start-up firms as Bloomberg members. He urged the cruise industry to follow his company's example in "sacrificing short-term profits in order to invest in the future" through re-evaluation and investment and observed that, in fact, the cruise industry itself was an innovative reinvention in the mid-twentieth century when the boom in air travel threatened to eliminate all ship travel.
Doctoroff's themes were echoed throughout the first day of cruise3sixty, in a panel discussion with cruise line CEO's, on a variety of topics, including strategies for selling luxury and opportunities for agents to profit from a broad range of small ship products and in educational seminars and workshops.
Dr. Lalia Rach welcomed four cruise line CEO's to address the topic "Maintain Course and Full Speed Ahead, ‘When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Keep Selling.'" Rick Sasso, president, MSC Cruises and CLIA's marketing committee chairman, reminded the audience that the cruise industry has weathered numerous economic downturns and adverse world events but since 1980 has realized a 7.4 percent annualized average growth. Saying "I see a very bright future for all of us," he reassured agents that they would be more and more important to the industry's success, despite technological advances. "We keep building the ships; we need you more than ever," he said.
Gerry Cahill of Carnival Cruise Lines, observing that bookings are up 10 percent over last year at the same time, told the audience his company was "ramping up on marketing" despite the economy, saying "the last thing anyone should do is cut back" if they want to first survive and then be ready for recovery. Carol Marlow, president and managing director of Cunard Line, also noted reasons to be optimistic. The maiden voyage company's new Queen Elizabeth, which does not join the fleet until 2010, was sold out in record time, barely more than 29 minutes, she said, and reported bookings for higher priced accommodations generally is up 50 percent. She advised sellers of cruises to "stay close to your customers. Ask what they want; make yourself valuable."
Adam Goldstein, president, Royal Caribbean International, agreed with other executives that the industry will continue to expand in 2009, and urged agents to plant the seeds of success over the next ten or twenty years now by taking every opportunity to convince consumers to spend what they can on cruising rather than on other forms of travel or even other planned expenditures such as home remodeling or other purchases. And, Kevin Sheehan, president, Norwegian Cruise Line, called on agents to "keep on top of your game" in order help drive business that will, in turn, help normalize pricing, thus helping cruise lines and travel agents regain greater profitability.
In other developments at cruise3sixty:
- Norwegian Cruise Line announced that its next generation cruise ship, the Norwegian Epic, will feature the only tube slide and largest bowl slide at sea as part of its expansive Aqua Park. The ship will also feature 14 restaurant choices, the most of any cruise ship.
- Royal Caribbean International announced enhancements to three travel agent programs, including new FAM Weekends, new flexibility and opportunities for the University of WOW! and an enhanced eConnect to help agents sell to clients.
- Seabourn Cruises announced its new 2010-2011 brochure covering fifteen months of itineraries.
- Hurtigruten announced a series of educational seminars for travel agents, which will include 17 seminars taking place in 10 states, April 21-30, 2009.
- The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau unveiled a new We Love Cruisers program that provides travel agents with American Express gift cards based on bookings of pre- and post-cruise hotel stays.
- Cruise Planners /American Express announced the launch of CoolNewShip.com, where cruising enthusiasts can register to win a spot on the inaugural voyage of the Norwegian Epic.
- NY Cruise, a unit of New York City Economic Development Corporation, announced that New York City will host the Canada New England Cruise Symposium in June 2011.