|Duffy says agents are still the most vital distribution channel for the cruise industry.|
CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) executives were in New York last month for their annual media showcase. Prior to one-on-one meetings that took place with member cruise lines, Christine Duffy, president and CEO of CLIA, gave journalists an update on the state of the cruise industry. Here are some highlights.
It’s been a full year since the cruise association opened its doors to grow its cruise line membership base from one that is solely North America-based to one that is an international entity, and membership has been growing. Under the new global CLIA, member cruise lines have gone from 26 to 63, representing 95 percent of the global cruise capacity.
“We’re pretty excited to now have a much broader variety of cruise lines that participate in CLIA associations around the world,” said Duffy, adding that a CLIA Italy chapter office would soon be opening.
CLIA’s global travel agency community has been expanding as well; it’s now comprised of 13,500 travel agency members who reach over 50,000 travel agents around the world.
“Part of our strategy in 2014 is to grow that channel of travel agents and agency members, particularly in markets outside of the U.S.,” said Duffy. The number of executive partners has grown to 250—those are the port authorities, destinations, and maritime and industry suppliers that are part of the supply chain for cruise lines.
CLIA and Travel Agents
Travel agents remain the most important distribution channel for CLIA and the cruise industry, said Duffy. “As we continue to see the cruise industry grow, with more ships, more destinations and unique itineraries, it is more important than ever that we encourage consumers to use a CLIA-certified travel counselor who really has invested in lots of training and education to know how to find the right cruise for what that consumer is looking for in their vacation experience.”
CLIA has redesigned much of its training and certification process and will more heavily promote CLIA-certified certification to consumers. At its annual cruise3sixty conference April 2-6, CLIA will have 10 brand new courses and 25 ship inspections, she said.
New Vessels, Deployment
In 2014, 16 new ships will be introduced by CLIA cruise line members, adding 20,000 beds of capacity; eight of those vessels are river cruise ships, considered to be the fastest growing segment of the cruise industry. Caribbean sailings will pick up a bit from where they were in 2013 and continue to lead in terms of deployment and capacity at 37.3 percent of all sailings.
The amount of ships sailing from the Mediterranean is down a bit, which Duffy said is likely “due to the economics in the region and also the opportunity in some of these newer markets, particularly in Asia where we’re seeing some new ships being deployed and even home-ported for part of the year,” she noted. “Europe without the Med is actually a little bit stronger than what it was in 2013.”