For cruise selling agents a new Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) survey and analysis of the Canadian cruise market offers new insights into the differences and similarities of U.S. and Canadian agents. In 2009, over 775,000 Canadians are forecast to take a cruise on CLIA member cruise ships, triple the number from 10 years ago and a 9.2 percent increase over 2008. They will represent 25.5 percent of all internationally sourced (non-U.S.) cruise vacationers, CLIA reports..
Playing an indispensable and irreplaceable role in driving sales in this increasingly important market and helping vacationers plan with convenience and ease are Canada's travel agents, including over 900 CLIA member agencies, 6.7 percent of total agency members. And they are optimistic that Canada will become an ever stronger player in the global cruise industry in the near future.
"There is no doubt that, as the cruise industry continues to grow and globalize its operations, Canada is playing a bigger and bigger role, offering multiple appealing cruise destinations on both coasts and Canadians from all parts of the country are taking more and more cruises," said Terry Dale, president and CEO of CLIA. "At the same time, the cruise industry is making a significant contribution to the Canadian economy. So it is a win-win situation for everyone, and, among the biggest winners are our travel agent partners."
A strong indication of the importance CLIA places on its partnerships in Canada was the decision to hold the industry's annual conference, cruise3sixty, in Vancouver, June 2-6, 2010, the first time the event has been staged outside of Florida and an important opportunity for Canadian agents to gain information and education, inspect cruise ships and interact with the entire global cruise industry.
Since 1980, the cruise industry, as represented by members of CLIA, has shown an impressive and steady growth despite numerous economic downturns and other adverse conditions and events. The industry continues to invest in growth: in 2009 CLIA lines introduced 14 new ships; in 2010 they will launch another 13. Between 2010 and 2012 the CLIA fleet will grow by 26 vessels, an investment of nearly $15 billion. These ships, including the three largest ever built as well as some of the smallest, showcase the incomparable variety and choice offered to consumers across all price categories and types of itineraries around the world.
As the industry has grown, CLIA member lines have expanded into all parts of the world, notably Europe, South America, Asia and new destinations and itineraries in North America as well. As a result, non-U.S. sourced passengers have been on the rise, accounting for 22.3 percent of total passengers in 2008. In this context, Canada had a capacity of 8.7 million bed days offered in 2009. Canada/Alaska itineraries represented over 7 percent of total CLIA fleet capacity, an increase of 64 percent since 2000. The 1.9 million bed days for Canada/New England cruises represent an increase in capacity of 69 percent in the same time period.
Meanwhile, according to independent analysis of the cruise industry's economic impact, cruise calls in Canada generate more than $2.3 billion (Canadian dollars) in total output in the Canadian economy, including $1.1 billion in direct spending by cruise lines, passengers and crew. The industry generates more than 16,000 jobs paying a total of $642 million in wages and salaries. British Columbia, benefiting from the Alaskan cruise traffic, accounts for two-thirds of the national impact but even interior provinces are impacted as source markets for cruise passengers and providers of services, food and provisions, and cruise-related land tourism packages. In eastern Canada, the ports of Quebec and Atlantic Canada on a combined basis accounted for about $275 million or 12 percent of the cruise industry's impact on the Canadian economy, due to the popularity of Canada-New England cruise vacations.
Contrast: Canada and U.S.
As the cruise industry's primary distribution channel, travel agents have a unique perspective on the prospects for the future and consumer interests and expectations. For that reason, CLIA surveyed its Canadian agent members in November 2009 to get a better sense of the market. According to Bob Sharak, CLIA's executive vice president, marketing and distribution, the results are highly encouraging.
"Like their American counterparts, and perhaps more so, our Canadian members are bullish on the industry," Sharak said. "They like the prospects for the coming year and beyond, they are confident that they can expand the pool of new cruise passengers, and they are preparing themselves for success with training and professional development."
Looking ahead to 2010, the CLIA survey found that 92.5 percent of Canadian agents are optimistic about travel in general and 97.7 percent expressed optimism for selling cruises. And 66.4 percent described themselves as very or extremely optimistic about selling cruises next year, while 53.4 percent were very or extremely optimistic about selling travel in general. More than 82 percent of agents expect increases in cruise sales next year. Almost 70 percent expect those sales to translate into higher cruise revenues. And, in good news to the industry, over 50 percent of agents believe they will sell to more first-timers in 2010 than 2009.
The survey also helped identify the Canadian cruise market. Couples and families are the most likely customers; "friends and multiple families traveling together" is the fastest growing category of cruise client; contemporary and premium pricing levels are the most popular, and the top ten cruise destinations for Canadians, in order, include the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Alaska, Europe, European river cruises, the Panama Canal, Hawaii, Mexico, the Baltic region, and South America.
Agents surveyed predicted that the "hot" destinations for 2010 will be the Mediterranean and Greek islands, European river voyages, South America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Baltic, Alaska and Southeast Asia.
Canadian agents also expressed strong commitment to professional development, with 60 percent saying training is very or extremely important. Almost half of agents (47 percent) surveyed are currently enrolled in CLIA Certification programs and 38 percent have achieved a CLIA Certification designation. More than 60 percent have taken CLIA training within the last two years.
What is needed to stimulate more interest in cruising among Canadians? Overwhelmingly, travel agents cited two conditions: a strengthened Canadian economy and continued value pricing of cruises. Visit www.cruising.org.