As Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) celebrates its 35th year, the association is spotlighting the dramatic transformation in cruising, cruise ships, and the travel agency distribution system. CLIA says it is the story of bold visionaries, extraordinary technological advancement, bold marketing innovations and steady success despite significant challenges and obstacles. In a backgrounder, CLIA estimates cruise commissions in 2009 to have topped $2.5 billion.
"Aside from computers and online technology perhaps, I don't know of an industry that evolved and transformed so profoundly and quickly as cruising. It would be hard to invent a story of such innovation and change. And yet it happened," said Terry L. Dale, president and CEO of CLIA.
Today, CLIA's 25 member cruise lines, which represent approximately 97 percent of all cruises sailed by North Americans, operate more than 200 ships of all sizes and purposes in every part of the world. At least 118 of the vessels have been built since 2000; virtually all the others have been continually refurbished and modernized, CLIA reports.
Together, they will carry over 14 million passengers in 2010 and have an economic impact on the United States alone of more than $40 billion annually. In 2010, CLIA members will introduce 12 new ships ranging in capacity from 101 guests to 5,400 passengers, for a total investment of $6.5 billion. In all, 26 new vessels will enter the fleet between 2010 and 2012.
But it was not always so. “In 1959, more travelers flew across the Atlantic Ocean than sailed on ocean liners, marking the quick demise of passenger shipping," CLIA note. "By 1975, many shipping companies had begun experimenting with new ways to use existing liners in order to stay in existence and newcomers, known as the South Florida "upstarts," had envisioned new concepts of vacationing at sea, first using existing ships and then quickly introducing new, purpose-built vessels imaginatively designed for leisure cruising.”
Warren Titus, an industry legend and president of Royal Viking Line, one of the new luxury cruise companies that was founded in 1973, was named CLIA's first chairman. "To the best of my knowledge it was the first time an industry like ours joined together and tried to work together in the interest of the whole," Titus said. "From the beginning, CLIA has always been about nurturing, educating and preparing travel agents, through training and certification, for competitive challenges, making profits and being ready to take on whatever the future may hold. In 1975, 74 percent of agent commissions came from air travel; today, earning a living from the airlines is virtually impossible. On the other hand, the cruise industry, from the beginning, recognized that travel agents represented the most effective sales force possible and made sure to win their loyalty."
As Bob Kwortnik, CLIA's first director of training, put it, "We showed them how to make money by selling what was, for many, an unknown product. Today, among CLIA's 16,000 agent members, those who have enrolled in training and Certification programs report an average increase in cruise sales of 261 percent. Cruise commissions in 2009 are estimated to have topped $2.5 billion."
“Essential to the cruise industry's growth was an evolving trade association. Throughout its history, CLIA has both spearheaded change and adapted to it," Dale said. "The first classroom training sessions of the 1970's have evolved into a comprehensive, multi-faceted training and Certification program featuring classroom, online, DVD/video, and textbook options as well as learning opportunities at CLIA events, other industry meetings and traveling seminars like Training Fest. In 2010, CLIA will present nearly 50,000 training events in over 150 cities across North America. Today, a record eleven thousand travel agents are currently enrolled in Certification programs pursuing their CLIA Certified Cruise Counsellor designations.
“In 1991, CLIA launched its first National Cruise Vacation Month, followed later by World's Largest Cruise Night, two high visibility consumer promotions that continue to drive interest and awareness for the latest innovations in cruise vacations," Dale continued. "The association's hugely popular annual conference and trade show, cruise3sixty, to be held this year in Vancouver, June 2-6, has set attendance records each of its five years of existence and provides incomparable opportunities for learning, networking and socializing with industry leaders and peers. The CLIA Hall of Fame, a centerpiece of cruise3sixty, was introduced to pay much deserved tribute to those individuals who have contributed the most to the industry. And, CLIA's Travel Agent Advisory Board is a further example of the priority the association places on its agency partnerships.
"The North American cruise industry and all its members can be very proud of their accomplishments," Dale concluded. "This is a truly amazing story and one that will continue to be even more exciting, thanks to continued innovation and strong industry partnerships."