CLIA's 2009 Cruise Industry Update

Travel Agent was at the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) 2009 Cruise Industry Update and Media Briefing this morning, where Terry L. Dale, CLIA's president and CEO, and Richard E. Sasso, president and CEO of MSC Cruises (USA) and chairman of CLIA's marketing committee, offered updates on the cruising industry.

terry dale richard sasso

Terry Dale and Richard Sasso

The preliminary numbers look encouraging. CLIA's associated lines added a total of 17 new ships to their rosters in 2008, and are poised to add 14 more this year. Between 2010 and 2012, 21 new ships, at a cost of approximately $14 billion, are expected to debut under CLIA's leadership.

There is clearly a market for these ships. CLIA projects 13.5 million passengers this year, with 10.4 million of that coming from North America. As Sasso pointed out, the cruise industry as a whole has an impact of $38 billion on the U.S. economy. "The tourism industry is the largest in the world," he said, "and we are a significant piece of that industry."

CLIA's relationship with travel agents was also featured at the briefing. Between 85 and 90 percent of CLIA cruises are booked by travel agents, many of them CLIA members and CLIA-certified with some cruise lines reporting that agent bookings account for as much as 97 percent of total bookings. A total of 16,000 agencies are affiliated with CLIA and, of 900 agents interviewed, 92 percent are optimistic about the three-year outlook for the cruising industry. More than half (52 percent) expect cruise sales in 2009 to be “good” or “very good” compared to 2008 with another 28 percent anticipating a “fair” cruise sales season.

Other trends and observations from CLIA’s survey of more than 900 travel agents conducted in early January include:

*    In terms of consumer interest and perceived value, cruises out-score all other types of vacations.
*    Among the destinations that travel agents believe will receive the most bookings this year are the Caribbean/The Bahamas, followed by Alaska, Europe/The Mediterranean, and Mexico.
*    By a large margin, a primary motivator for consumers’ booking a cruise during the January “Wave Season” is good to extraordinary value offered by the cruise lines. In second place is consumers’ love for cruising.

CLIA said that, with a track record of continued growth, the North American cruise industry is well-positioned to take on the global economic challenges of 2009. “Sparked by new ships, ports, and destinations as well as innovative shipboard experiences, and a deep rooted popularity for cruising, CLIA members will continue to offer incredible value across the entire spectrum of cruise vacations, in all price categories,” CLIA said.

“There is no doubt that 2009 represents an uncertain environment, not only for CLIA members but for all industries and consumers alike," Dale said. "However, CLIA members are confident that they will weather the challenges and emerge stronger than ever, as they have before. This is an industry that plans ahead and invests in the future, as evidenced by the impressive number of new ships on order through 2012, and one that will contribute positively to the country’s economic revival. The remarkable diversity and variety of cruises give consumers a unique opportunity to find a vacation that fits their budget even during these economic downturns, and we expect that North Americans, Europeans and travelers from all over the world will respond positively.”

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