More than 1,000 travel agents are expected to attend the Cruise360 conference at Port Everglades, FL, next week. Set for April 18-24 at the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center, it's the 13th such conference for Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).
The opportunities are robust for agents seeking to build their business by selling cruises. In 2016, 448 cruise ships sailed the world's oceans, and capacity growth is robust. CLIA's “2017 Cruise Industry Outlook Report” shows that 26 new ocean, river and specialty ships with 30,000 new berths – $6.8 billion in investment -- will launch this year.
"The order book is very full," says Cindy D’Aoust, CLIA Global's president and CEO. She emphasizes that the cruise lines continue to demonstrate their strong commitment to industry growth with new orders. So, right now, the shipyards are bustling with new builds in progress.
For 2017, CLIA Global expects 25.3 million passengers worldwide, up from an estimated 24.2 million for 2016. Prepping themselves to make the most of the increasing capacity, travel agents will attend Cruise360's general sessions to learn about the latest trends and sales opportunities directly from top cruise industry executives.
On April 20, Arnold Donald, president and CEO, Carnival Corporation, will give the keynote opening address. Following that, "Presidents' Panel: A Panoramic View" will bring executives together for insight into the current and future state of the cruise landscape and the role the travel agent community plays in the industry's growth.
Speakers will be Christine Duffy, president, Carnival Cruise Line; Andy Stuart, president and CEO, Norwegian Cruise Line; Roberto Fusaro, president, MSC Cruises USA; and Larry Pimentel, president and CEO, Azamara Club Cruises.
On April 21, opening remarks will be by Karl Holz, president of New Vacation Operations and Disney Cruise Line. Then Diane Moore, president of Paul Gauguin Cruises, will lead a panel discussion about "Small Ships, Big Return: How to Capitalize on the Popularity of Small Ship Cruising."
Speakers on this panel will include: Ellen Bettridge, president and CEO, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection; Navin Sawhney, COO, PONANT Yacht Cruises and Expeditions; Mark Conroy, managing director, the Americas, Silversea Cruises; Katherine Bonner, senior vice president, Tauck River & Small Ship Cruising; Terri Burke, managing director, Avalon Waterways; Kristin Karst, executive vice president and co-owner, AmaWaterways; and John Delaney, president, Windstar Cruises.
And the final General Session on April 22 will feature a keynote address by Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
Then sales and marketing leaders will "Take the "Hot Seat"' during a discussion led by Michelle Fee, co-founder, co-owner and CEO, Cruise Planners and Vicky Garcia, co-owner and COO of Cruise Planners.
Hot seat participants will include: Adolfo Perez of Carnival Cruise Line; Ron Gulaskey of Celebrity Cruises; Eva Jenner of Holland America Line and Seabourn; Wayne Peyreau of MSC Cruises; Camille Olivere of Norwegian Cruise Line; John Chernesky of Princess Cruises and Cunard Line; Randall Soy of Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Vicki Freed of Royal Caribbean International.
During the conference, agents who's registered can earn two CLIA Certificates -- "Meetings & Events at Sea" and the new "Specialty & Boutique Cruise Certificate.
Other training sessions cover such topics as "Developing Your Marketing," "Learning from the Millennials," "Social Media 101," "Power Selling Skills - the Five Building Blocks of Sales," "Successful Qualifying - Are You Asking the Right Questions," "Power Branding," and many more.
"The conference is valuable because of the robust educational content for agents," believes Drew Daly, general manager, network engagement and performance, CruiseOne, Cruises Inc. and Dream Vacations. "CLIA has a wide variety of workshops...which provide some great options for attendees."
Cruise line product showcases also delve into the latest sales initiatives, product updates and trends. Usually three to five lines present in each showcase.
Product and destination training is also provided, such as "How to Maximize Your Guest's Experience in Port Everglades & Greater Fort Lauderdale," "Copenhagent is Truly a Must-See Destination," "Alaska: Selling Adventure in the Last Frontier," and "Japan: Island Exploration with Princess Cruises," to name just a few of the sessions.
Some registered attendees have also signed up for in-person Career Counseling sessions with a member of CLIA’s Professional Development and Training team.
But, for many agents, the ship inspections offered at Cruise360 by CLIA member lines are a priority. Ships available for inspection (with reservations) are docked at both Port Everglades and PortMiami.
This year's crop of ships for inspections include Royal Princess, Norwegian Getaway, Carnival Vista, Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas, Holland America Line's Zuiderdam, Celebrity Silhouette, MSC Divina, Cunard Line's Queen Victoria and many others.
"Personally for a new or veteran agent, the ship inspection options are invaluable as they provide a first-hand opportunity to see what the ship has to offer and you get a little taste of life onboard so the agents can better educate their customers, says Daly.
In addition, "there are constant updates to ships so even if you saw a ship last year, chances are something onboard has evolved," he emphasizes.
CLIA's Cruise360 attracts travel agents, cruise line staffers, port officials and destination leaders, as well as industry suppliers and CLIA preferred executive partners.
While scheduling for ship inspections and seminars are now closed, agents who wish to join the conference can register online and still participate in seminars and workshops on a space-available basis.