Cruise selling travel agents, including newcomers to the industry, will be the beneficiaries of the Cruise Lines International Association’s (CLIA) new membership program that includes a soon to be unveiled website (www.cruising.org), bonus commission incentives and a lead generation capability, among other features.
“As 2009 draws to a close, CLIA membership totals nearly 16,000 agencies making CLIA the largest agency association in the Travel Industry,” said Bob Sharak, CLIA executive vice president, in an interview with Travel Agent. “We strive to deliver incremental value to our Membership by increasing their knowledge base and profitability.”
CLIA’s new website has been totally redesigned and will launch before the end of the year. The new site features greater visual appeal as well as reorganized content, and it will be much easier to navigate. “CLIA has listened to our membership and, in many respects, our new site design is a direct result of articulated member requests,” Sharak said.
One advantage of the new website is to provide expanded agency reach. Each month, hundreds of thousands of consumers visit www.cruising.org for information on cruising and/or to locate a cruise sales professional. Each CLIA agency will enjoy an individual listing with direct e-mail links to the "key contact" at the agency (as provided by agency) and a link to the agency website along with standard contact information, such as addresses and phone numbers.
CLIA membership also offers opportunities to enhance profitability. Every CLIA member agency receives a Membership Kit, for example. This contains over $5,000 in bonus commission/value added coupons. Of this, over $3,000 in bonus commission coupons are offered by CLIA member lines and range from contemporary cruise products to ultra luxury.
These bonus commission opportunities are in addition to the negotiated arrangements agencies have in place with CLIA member lines. As a "stand alone" proposition, this one membership feature clearly recoups annual membership fees by a significant multiple, CLIA says.
CLIA’s education and certification will also be expanded. CLIA is widely recognized as the premier training organization in the Industry with a curriculum and trainers widely regarded as the "Gold Standard". CLIA’s Sharak notes that research has proven that upon achieving CLIA Certification the average travel agent experiences a 261 percent increase in sales.
Currently, CLIA’s Training Programs include: 19 three-hour classroom seminars, six 90-minute classroom seminars, 15 seminars on DVD, 24 online training courses and the Cruise Vacation Textbook. CLIA Certifications now include: ACC - Accredited Cruise Counsellor; MCC - Master Cruise Counsellor; ECC - Elite Cruise Counsellor and ECCS - Elite Cruise Counsellor Scholar. Designations include LTS - Luxury Travel Specialist.
In addition, CLIA promotes an ongoing series of member cruise line webinars, designed to increase the product knowledge and sales acumen of CLIA member agencies.
Another feature of CLIA’s program are travel training opportunities with CLIA gladly conducting complimentary training for any group of 50 or more agents.
CLIA notes that the CLIA Agency Membership Kit contains one complimentary CLIA Classroom Training Certificate and three seminars on DVD.
CLIA members will be encouraged to take advantage of CLIA's National Cruise Vacation Month and World's Largest Cruise Night – events that generate substantial consumer interest and commission revenues.
Promotions such as these and "You Deserve a Cruise" along with other CLIA conceived/promoted initiatives are for the exclusive utilization of CLIA member agencies which is viewed as another key membership benefit. Additionally, all CLIA members, qualify for discounted registration fees at cruise3sixty, the "must attend" event for cruise selling professionals (www.cruise3sixty.com).
CLIA also continues to offer a variety of useful business resources valuable to agents. CLIA membership equips agencies with the resources required to be proficient cruise selling subject matter experts. Agency membership includes CLIA's Cruise Manual; a CD-ROM that contains comprehensive information on 25 CLIA Member Cruise Lines, over 200 ships, worldwide ports of call/destinations and a series of specialty guides.
Also included in the Membership Kit is CLIA's Marketing Essentials CD. This CD contains a wealth of "how to" advice and templates that encompass virtually all aspects of advertising, public relations, social networking and marketing activities.
Still another noteworthy item in the membership kit is "CLIA's Questions and Answers"; a comprehensive sales tool for agents to answer consumer inquiries about the cruise product.
Each CLIA member agency qualifies for four CLIA ID Cards at a preferred rate of $29 per year. With enhanced qualification requirements that were announced in August of 2008, the CLIA ID Card has among the most stringent criteria of all industry ID Cards (www.cruising.org/travelagents/public/photoid.cfm). CLIA ID Card holders qualify for a wide range of industry discounts and professional considerations, CLIA notes.
CLIA members will also benefit from the associations communications and advocacy programs. From CLIA’s monthly newsletter "CLIA Today" to regular e-mail communications and a constantly updated website, CLIA agents stay on top of the most meaningful cruise news. CLIA also notes that it exists to promote all measures that foster a safe, secure and healthy cruise ship environment as well as to educate and train its travel agent members. CLIA wants to promote and explain the value, desirability and affordability of the cruise vacation experience.