|Adam Goldstein, CLIA's chairman, provided his "take" on CLIA's State of the Industry at the kick-off General Session for the annual cruise3sixty conference in Port Everglades, FL, on Wednesday.|
Agents matter, sales opportunities abound and cruise lines need and strongly support agents. Agents also need to invest in themselves to take advantage of the opportunities.
Those were the core messages Cruise Lines International Association executives relayed to 1,300 travel agents attending the first General Session at CLIA's annual cruise3sixty conference at Port Everglades, FL.
New Executive Team
“You’re going to hear us talking a lot about investing in yourself because we believe you’re worth it,” Cindy D’Aoust, CLIA’s new executive vice president, membership and operations, told the audience of 1,300 agent attendees. She urged the travel advisors to take advantage of resources at cruise3sixty and “grow your professional success.” This was D'Aoust's first appearance at cruise3sixty since assuming her new position a few months ago.
|Cindy D'Aoust, CLIA's new executive vice president of membership and operations, at cruise3sixty.|
Also new to CLIA, Charles Sylvia, CLIA’s new vice president of membership, encouraged the audience to empower themselves with training, resources and tools to sell more cruises. Through Sunday, CLIA will present 12 training seminars, including four new courses, plus agents will inspect 15 CLIA member line cruise ships.
|Charles Sylvia and Cindy D'Aoust introduced themselves to agents at cruise3sixty.|
Specialty and brand showcases are providing more detail about specific brands, and the trade show opens today. Both leaders urged agents to get to know them during the conference.
What does the new team bring? “There’s a lot of passion for our industry and for our community,” D’Aoust said.
CLIA is also celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. D'Aoust and Sylvia rolled out a 40th anniversary ceremonial display cake in the shape of a cruise ship. Agents will see it around the show this week and the CLIA leaders urged agents to take selfies and post on Twitter with #cruise3sixty or #clia.
State of the Industry
Adam Goldstein, CLIA's chairman and president of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., gave the keynote "State of the Industry" address. He said only 1.4 million people cruised in 1980 and the industry had 41,000 berths, while in 2014, 22 million customers cruised and the industry fielded nearly 500,000 berths.
“For those of you who have been riding this wave of cruising over the 35 years, I hope it’s been great for you,” Goldstein told the agent audience. “I hope you’ve profited from it, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it.”
When CLIA globalized over the past few years, Goldstein said the organization grew from 26 members to 62 members. He said the organization’s 50,000 travel agents make it the world’s largest travel agent association.
“You guys are the spearheads of that,” he stressed. “It’s incredibly helpful to us that you are part of our organization,” citing the importance of CLIA training and certification programs in the quest to sell more cruises.
“It’s also extremely helpful to the industry in its political agenda that we are able to go to places like Washington D.C. and not only talk about the member lines but the fact that we have such a strong affiliation with so many small businesses and medium-sized businesses that are typical of the travel agency distribution system,” Goldstein emphasized.
|Agents listened to Adam Goldstein's "State of the Industry" update at cruise3sixty.|
Goldstein also cited sponsorships at various levels and CLIA’s 275 executive partners, which include ports, destinations, suppliers and business services. “CLIA would not exist without those partners,” Goldstein said.
Goldstein said he's given an industry outlook speech four times already this year, and the outlook remains positive. “I don’t think they’d let me give this speech if I said it was negative,” he quipped.
“The growth continues to occur,” Goldstein said, noting that the industry has moved well beyond the era of 2008-2009, which was a very tough period. He said the improvement has been very steady year after year. Among the positive factors, “people continue to set sail,” said Goldstein, citing four to five percent annual growth most years.
He also said “size doesn’t matter,” given the public’s fascination with all types of vessels from small river ships and niche lines up through the largest mega-ships. “If you look at the incredible variety of ships and the remarkable variety of destinations to which they go…the only thing you can reasonably conclude is that there are a lot of different tastes and preferences among consumers,” Goldstein emphasized.
CLIA projects that more than 23 million people are expected to cruise this year, and Goldstein thanked the agents for making that happen. “We’re bullish and we expect that number to continue to grow,” he stressed, citing the new ships planned in the coming years. “But it isn’t just because there are more ships, it’s because people love their cruises,” he said.
Average cruiser? While Goldstein said agents probably are saying there is no average cruiser, and it’s true that a lot of detail is lost in looking at averages, the average person that cruises has an annual household income of $114,000. Customers are relatively upscale. That’s where the opportunity is going forward, he said.
From research done earlier in the year, “people consistently rank ocean cruises higher than other types of vacations,” he said. “They love their cruises and they tell people about it.”
Yet, Goldstein also said he knows people who haven't taken “the plunge,” and so do agents. “We need to get that message across and we need to work with you in every way possible to do that."
|Agents are important in helping consumers select the right vacation, according to Adam Goldstein.|
While the cruise ship building boom continues, CLIA's research shows that the most important thing to consumers is still, overwhelmingly, "the destination." He told agents to not let anyone tell them that because ships could be destinations unto themselves that the real destinations aren't important, because they are.
Looking at shipbuilding, Goldstein said it’s an interesting time: “The orders that have been made are farther forward than ever seen before. So we can actually see out to 2020, believe it or not. There are already orders that have been placed.”
Fifty-five ships are already on order for delivery from 2015 up through 2020. That's a $25 billion investment.
He also pointed to CLIA’s Specialty Cruise Collection category of small ships and luxury ships, noting that the category is thriving. It's growing at a faster rate than the industry overall. In addition, CLIA research has shown that customers are happy to take both kinds of cruises over time – ocean and river.
So where are the ships going? “We’ve awarded the crown to the Caribbean again,” Goldstein said, and “for the foreseeable future, the Caribbean will continue to be the largest sector in terms of deployment destination.” Forty or 50 Caribbean ports welcome cruisers.
The next two top destination areas were the Mediterranean and elsewhere in Europe, comprising 31 percent. Most notable, Goldstein said, is the combination of Australia/New Zealand and Asia, including China, which is now at 12 percent. Just a few years ago, that combination was only three or four percent.
“There’s no limit to where you can send your customers,” he stressed. He talked about the bewildering array of choices for consumers, many of whom who have done their own research online about vacation choices. Still, “with all the choices that customers have today of what to do, how to book, where to go, who to ask, overwhelmingly they still come to you for their cruise vacation,” Goldstein said.
Booking themselves, given the complexities? “Some will, most won’t,” he stressed. “That’s why your membership in the association matters,” he told agents. “That’s why we’ve worked so hard on the individual travel agent value proposition.” He cited new membership benefits, to which every North American member line has contributed.
To summarize, Goldstein said, “the industry is doing well, your contribution to our welfare is critical. Our contribution to your welfare is critical as well.” Emerging trends give agents an opportunity to focus, specialize and succeed.