Stressing Importance of Advocating for the Industry, New President and CEO Christine Duffy Urges Agents to Maximize Opportunities by Embracing Professionalism, Understanding Societal Shifts and Taking Advantage of New Technologies Fort Lauderdale, FL — April 21, 2011 —
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) this week wrapped up another strongly attended cruise3sixty (April 14-18) at the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center as nearly 2,000 total delegates, including over 1,200 travel agents, from throughout North America and as far away as Australia, add another notch in their cruise industry professional development armed with new strategies for success in the “Next Generation” of cruising.
In addition to hearing from industry leaders and experts, cruise3sixtydelegates set an all-time high for CLIA training participation in the event’s 16 educational seminars, including three new programs. Over 3,000 CLIA travel agent training events were delivered at cruise3sixty setting a new one-time event training record. The trade show featured more than 300 exhibitor booths and 19 ships were available for inspection.
In the keynote address on Friday, CLIA’s new president and CEO, Christine Duffy, said that cruising, as the number one ranked vacation category and an industry poised for continued growth, represents tremendous opportunity for agents if they embrace the future. “The future is now. We can look at the past to inform the future but not to define it. Let’s reimagine, reinvigorate and reenergize,” the former president and CEO of Maritz Travel Company told the audience.
She urged agents to leverage the new technologies that have enabled important societal changes impacting travel in order to develop a seamless relationship with clients, beginning when they first start thinking about a vacation and continuing long after they’ve come home. Noting that mobile communications is the wave of the future, Duffy said, “In the old world, holding knowledge and information was power; in the new “connected world,” sharing knowledge and information is power.”
Duffy also emphasized the need for CLIA and its members to advocate for the travel industry in order to protect, promote and further industry interests, and also to help drive market penetration through greater positive consumer awareness of the industry’s value and benefits to national economies. “Travel matters,” she stressed, observing that globally travel and tourism represents $1.2 trillion in investment, $5.8 trillion in global GDP and an expected 300 million jobs by 2020. In the US alone, cruising contributes as much as $40 billion a year to the economy.
Pointing out that the travel industry’s influence among regulators and legislators is perceived to be lower than six other industries, including financial services, energy, food and beverage and others, CLIA’s president pointed to the strong efforts made by the association’s public and legislative affairs team, which, in concert with individual cruise line members, has been and continues to be successful in influencing policy and regulation favorable to the industry in such areas as environment, health, safety and security. Nevertheless, CLIA and its members need to continue “to step up and take responsibility. The travel industry touches every Congressional district in this country; we need to have a seat at the table with policy makers,” she said.
Duffy called on agents to counter perceptions of travel as frivolous and be proud of the important industry they work in and of their professionalism and she urged them to continue to elevate their profession in order to create a new, respected career path for the next generation.
The “Next Generation” theme continued through other cruise3sixty programs, including a Leadership Panel in which cruise line executives expressed not only their optimism about continued growth and improved revenues, but urged agents to take full advantage of all the opportunities of new technology, improved product and diversity of cruise experiences available to build business. Participants included Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line; Dan Hanrahan, Celebrity Cruises; Rick Sasso, MSC Cruises USA; Charles Robertson, American Cruise Lines; and Jan Swartz, Princess and Cunard Line.
Margaret Murphy, founder of Consulting for the 21st Century Leader, highlighted changes in consumer demographics that are impacting how successful agents will be in selling travel. Noting that the two largest household groups in America now are married couples with no children living at home and people living alone, she said the traditional American consumer “has left the building.” Pointing out other realities of the 21st century, including the fact that never married 25-34 year olds now outnumber marrieds in the same age category and that 70 percent of people earning $100,000 or more shop at Wal-Marts, Murphy cautioned agents to avoid pigeon-holing or categorizing clients based on traditional demographics. Echoing Duffy and cruise line executives, she also urged agents to make use of rapidly changing technology to reach their customers. “Technology is who we are,” she said.
Murphy was joined by another group of industry leaders to discuss 21st century consumers, what they expect and how to reach them. The consensus was that emotional connections, from pre- to post-cruise experience, are vital to reaching very knowledgeable, high demand customers with very diverse interests and backgrounds. The panel also offered advice on the best ways to connect with these consumers – treat them the way you want to be treated when making a major purchase – and strongly recommended that every possible tool be used to reach prospective clients, not just a reliance on referrals and word of mouth.
Panelists included: Keith Lane, Celebrity Cruises; Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean International; Justin French, Carnival Cruise Line; Andy Stuart, Norwegian Cruise Line; Maurice Zarmati, Costa Cruise Lines; Mark Kammerer, Holland America Line; and Michael Batt, Travel Leaders Group.
In another panel discussion, cruise line executives explored a diversity of “niche” markets, including small ships, coastal and river cruising, adventure and luxury cruises. They emphasized that these cruise categories show strong growth and that the lines are very focused on travel agents, with excellent commission potential. The lines represented included AMA Waterways, American Cruise Lines, Avalon Waterways, Hurtigruten, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, Regent Seven Seas, SeaDream Yacht Club and Windstar Cruises. Marketing expert Mike Marchev concluded cruise3sixty’s general sessions with a motivational talk on “The Next Generation of You.”
As always, a major highlight of cruise3sixty 2011 was the gala dinner for the Cruise Industry Hall of Fame inductions. This year’s honorees were Rick Sasso, president and CEO of MSC Cruises USA; Michelle Morgan, president and CEO of Signature Travel Network; and the US Coast Guard. The evening’s entertainment was provided by Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line and Celebrity Cruises.
Other news announced by cruise lines and other companies at cruise3sixty included:
• American Cruise Lines announced that the name of its brand new 140-passenger Mississippi sternwheeler will be Queen of the Mississippi. The ship will operate over the entire Mississippi River system. American also said that it will offer seven- to eleven-night Alaska itineraries beginning in 2012.
• Cruise One/Cruises Inc. introduced new website landing pages focusing on river cruises and homeport cruises featuring domestic ports of embarkation. It was also announced that Gregg Lederman, CEO of Brand Integrity, will be the keynote speaker for the companies’ annual conference to be held on RCI’s Allure of the Seas, October 9 to 16.
• Norwegian Cruise Line unveiled its new Partners First corporate philosophy, highlighted by investment in long term travel partner success; a complete focus on being easy to do business with; and a commitment to travel partners on direct business, including a promise that such bookings will have no price advantage. Norwegian’s executive vice president Andy Stuart said the line is spending $7 million on technology improvements to help agents and $16 million on communications, marketing tools, co-op programs and the NCL University, all to support its travel partners.
• Royal Caribbean International announced that it is spending $70 million on its “Royal Advantage” program to upgrade several ships by adding Oasis Class signature amenities, including new dining concepts and entertainment options. The line also has added a third Broadway musical, Saturday Night Fever: The Musical, which will be featured on Liberty of the Seas. RCI has 11 ships in Europe this summer and will operate 12 in that region in 2012.
• SeaDream Yacht Club announced that it will offer two, 20-day voyages to the Amazon in February, 2012. In addition, based on strong bookings for 2011 Baltic cruises, it will expand its 2012 offerings in that region, including a departure from Dover, England. Increased Mediterranean options include an 11-day Black Sea voyage roundtrip from Istanbul.
• Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection announced the arrival of its new Super Ship Antoinette, which has begun “Castles along the Rhine cruises” from Basel to Amsterdam. Uniworld will introduce several other new vessels in the near future, including the Douro Spirit, which will sail on the Douro River, and the River Saigon, which will offer Southeast Asian itineraries.
For more information about CLIA and cruise3sixty
, please visit www.cruising.org