Cruise360: D'Aoust Expects More Globalization, 24 Million Cruisers This Year

Cindy D’Aoust, CLIA president and CEO, and Charles Sylvia, CLIA VP membership and trade relations
Cindy D’Aoust, CLIA president and CEO, and Charles Sylvia, CLIA VP membership and trade relations

Taking the helm of her first Cruise360 conference as Cruise Lines International Association’s (CLIA) new president and CEO, Cindy D’Aoust told the 1,000-plus agents, suppliers and industry partners at the Vancouver Convention Centre, Vancouver, BC, that their conference participation would give them a panoramic view of an ever-changing industry.

One highlight? D'Aoust said CLIA member lines welcomed 23 million cruise guests onboard in 2015, and the results surpassed even what the organization had expected. So it’s now projecting 24 million passengers to sail in 2016. “That’s certainly a sign our industry is stronger than ever before,” said D’Aoust, adding that’s still only 2 percent of the total travel market.

Great potential exists, particularly in the U.S. and Canada, for more growth as cruise vacations are outpacing land based travel. “It’s interesting that we have the highest satisfaction rate among consumers,” she said.

From one trade perspective, “the increased number is a strong sign of the continued growth and excitement for cruising,” said Drew Daly, general manager, network engagement and performance, Cruises Inc., CruiseOne and Dream Vacations, who sat in on the session. He identified “growth” as one of the industry’s top trends.

What most influences the industry’s success? “You are the greatest factor,” D’Aoust told the agents in attendance. “You educate and motivate travelers to take a cruise experience."

Concurring was Charles Sylvia, CLIA's vice president, membership and trade relations: "By being here today, you're demonstrating that you're investing in yourself. Research shows that travel agents who educate themselves continually about the industry provide the greatest value to their customers and they're also the most successful. This is value that customers cannot find on their own."

The Strategic Mission

So what will agents see from CLIA moving forward? First, “you will see more opportunities to provide input and feedback,” she told the retailers, adding, “it’s not just to listen but also to implement your suggestions.” 

While CLIA and the cruise industry will also continue down the globalization path set by the CLIA board over the past several years, “we’re creating a global infrastructure so both our members and our team can share best practices around the world.” But D’Aoust said that also means “enough flexibility to execute what the local level needs and with local expertise.”

Agents can expect CLIA to also continue its One Voice initiative, speaking on important issues with one cohesive voice that gets the most bang for the buck with regulators, government officials, the media and the traveling public.

Look for new strategic partnerships too. For the first time in September, CLIA will partner with the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association to put together a travel agent destination summit hosted by Puerto Rico. “It’s a great example of how we can work with another association and deliver a new event focused on our members,” said D’Aoust.

In addition, “we’re making sure what we do enhances member value,” D'Aoust stressed. “We need to stay focused on the founding mission that is to help members succeed.”

For more about the "mission," check out Travel Agent’s recent cover story on 2016 Cruise Trends with input from D’Aoust and Sylvia.

Vancouver, BC's Gateway

During the opening session, Sylvia thanked the City of Vancouver for its hospitality in hosting Cruise360 and introduced Ty Speer, president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver. Speer stressed that the cruise vacation doesn’t have to stop when clients get off the ship or leave Vancouver.

Two hours up the road from Vancouver is Whistler, which he stressed isn’t just about skiing and winter sports but year-round vacation fun. He told the conference attendees that British Columbia has a lovely wine region with vineyards dotting the landscape, as well as gorgeous lakes. Plus, Victoria, BC, is just a short plane ride or ferry ride away. “We have a wide range of things we believe delivers a first class experience,” said Speer. 

Giving Back

Much as Adam Goldstein did in his presentation at Cruise360, encouraging agents to give back to their communities, D’Aoust said CLIA itself is finding ways to give back. It’s chosen Mercy Ships as its charity of choice.

“CLIA supports the organization’s commitment to delivering health care and surgical intervention to people in developing countries.” D’Aoust herself observed the charity in action, and “it was amazing to me to see the work the doctors, nurses and health care volunteers do. It’s completely volunteer-driven."

Those who serve the charity receive no money, they only volunteer their time and they actually must pay expenses to be there.