Kicking off Seatrade Cruise Global 2018's opening General Session, Cindy D'Aoust, president and CEO, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), gave some impressive figures for cruise industry growth and sales potential.
At the week-long conference at Port Everglades, FL, she also pledged to undertake a strong environmental and destination sustainability initiative -- telling the audience that by next year's conference, they would be celebrating the progress.
"Simply put, this is a really pivotal year for us," D'Aoust said. "In fact, I believe 2018 will be remembered as the year the cruise industry unified behind great goals and worked together like never before."
A "Global Travel Rush"
First, though, she laid out a look at what's ahead for consumer travel, both in the cruise industry and in other travel segments. "In 2018, we expect to welcome more than 27 million passengers aboard the 449 CLIA cruise line ships with another 27 new ships expected to debut this year," said D'Aoust.
Confident the growth will continue, she stressed: "By any measure, we’re in the midst of a 'global travel rush,' with more people from around the world visiting more destinations than ever before."
She cited a rising middle class, growing interest in the world’s diversity of cultures and the innate human desire to explore, which "promises an expanding market for travel."
By 2030, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) predicts another 600 million international travelers. That creates a pool of 1.8 billion travelers, and D'Aoust explained that all sectors of travel are expanding to meet this demand.
For example, in Europe, she said the rental car market is projected to grow by 18 percent over the next four years, hotel occupancy rates are the strongest in nearly a decade, and both air and train travel are also growing. She also said that the cruise industry is preparing to accept and welcome more travelers.
Bigger Ships, More Cruisers
"Not only are we adding to our fleet, our ships are getting bigger," D'Aoust said. Starting in 2020, more than half of CLIA member lines' vessels will carry 3,000 or more passengers.
While partners in port cities are enjoying the economic benefits cruising delivers, D'Aoust said they’re also facing the stress of this global travel boom. "Today’s modern cruise ships resemble floating cities and that brings challenges and responsibilities as well."
Guests typically never see the many less glamorous but important duties the lines perform, she said, citing the recycling of water, food disposal, fuel efficiency, port infrastructure enhancements and hundreds of other efforts to ensure responsible environmental stewardship.
"But there is one crucial difference," D'Aoust told the eclectic cruise industry audience of shipbuilders, ship vendors, cruise line executives, destinations, ports and media. and ports. "Because we are at sea, we must do it better. We must be more efficient, we must be more effective and we must be more mindful than the land based resorts."
She gave the example of an everyday task such as recycling. While on land, it's as simple at times as just putting plastic in one bin, paper in another. Onboard, though, it’s a complex challenge requiring continuous, creative problem solving.
"Cruise lines must think differently about everything that they do from packaging materials to the use of certain products," she said. "That 'do more with less' mindset has resulted in a much smaller footprint."
Cruise ships today recycle 60 percent more per passenger than the average person does on land, according to D'Aoust.
Why? "No single industry relies more on the splendor of our oceans, planets or seas, the pristine beauty of our pristine harbors and seaside communities," D'Aoust told the crowd. She said CLIA believes that no single community has a greater imperative to protect the environment and ensure that the ports and destinations that cruise ships visit thrive in a sustainable fashion.
"This is more than just a business responsibility," she said. "It’s a call to leadership. And if anything cruising’s rapid growth makes this responsibility more urgent, our leadership even more critical."
Eco-Friendly Ship Power
She explained that the cruise industry is driving major innovation in ship power, as 16 liquified natural gas (LNG) ships are on order and the first ship to sail with this new clean fuel will be in 2019. The lines are also pursuing the testing of emission-free hydrogen fuel cells to see if they could eventually power ships.
"Advanced treatment and UV filtration systems now generate water that is cleaner than the seas we sail on," D'Aoust said.
Recently, cruise lines have formed partnerships with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Galapagos Conservancy and the Central Caribbean Marine Institute. To protect historic sites for future generations, industry association are also forming alliances with local destinations and groups such as UNESCO.
"These are just a few examples of cruising’s commitment to clean air, clean water, preserving marine eco-systems and strengthening local destinations, along with many other steps to ensure that we are good stewards of the environment and good partners with our port communities," D'Aoust noted.
She said CLIA both recognizes its responsibilities and is actively embracing its duty to operate sustainably. CLIA's mission is also to work with its member cruise lines "to establish priorities that focus our attention, channel our energy and harness our innovation towards a common goal."
One Voice, Solid Commitment
D'Aoust set out the plan for the attendees: "So in 2018, it’s time to take the next leap in terms of our industry’s leadership -- to act not just as one company but to showcase our strength as one industry with one voice committed to addressing the world’s most important challenges. We need to make our commitments clear."
She stressed that the cruise industry is a complex network that stretches across many sectors, which all must pull in the same direction."As an industry we must define a set of industry-wide commitments to environmental and destination sustainability by setting high standards and holding ourselves accountable," she said.
So what's coming up? "This year CLIA will be focusing on forming innovative partnerships that result in action," she stressed, but also noted that promoting pristine waterways and sustainable destinations is a job bigger than any single industry can handle.
"In response, many of our cruise lines have already partnered with the world’s most renowned sustainability organizations such as ORCA, the World Wildlife Fund, Nature Conservancy, to promote the common interests we share in ocean conservation," said D'Aoust. She cited examples of progress -- building new coral nurseries in the Caribbean, protecting fish habitats and reducing CO2 emissions.
CLIA plans to leverage that work across the cruise industry and the broader travel industry. "We have already joined with World Travel & Tourism Council and United Travel," she said.
CLIA also plans to form partnerships with conservation groups, scientists and other experts to identify advanced tools, top business practices and innovations that member lines can adopt to advance sustainability.
A Pivotal Year
D'Aoust emphasized her view that leadership in the cruise industry doesn't mean responding to trends; it means jumping ahead of them. It doesn't mean reacting to rising environmental awareness; it means raising the bar on the cruise industry's own performance.
"We don’t just work to meet public expectations," she told the audience. "We strive to surpass them. I’m looking forward very much to taking this journey with you, and lifting cruising to new heights of sustainability, responsibility and opportunity."