CLIA Conference Dispenses Essential Education

There's no doubt that agents left the recent Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) cruise3sixty conference armed with insight and knowledge that will help grow their businesses.  CLIA offered several agent training sessions at cruise3sixty

Not only were they given access to the many suppliers they sell on a daily basis, but they were also able to immerse themselves in varied workshops, cruise line updates, even cruise ship inspections. As one travel agent said, "There's no better way to sell a cruise than by actually experiencing it."

While the Seatrade Shipping Conference, held just ahead of cruise3sixty in Miami, is more skewed toward the cruise lines, the countries they do business with and the suppliers that equip the ships, cruise3sixty, held in Ft.Lauderdale, is all about travel agents: the main sales arm of the cruise lines.

"It's one of the best organized and put together conferences in the industry today," says Penney Rudicil, owner of The Travel Planner in Gallatin, TN. "They really do think about what the agents needs are and try to have a good variety of breakout sessions and classes to help everyone from home-based agents to owners and managers of brick-and-mortar agencies. If agents attended the CLIA classes, the many other sessions, and did the ship inspections offered, they will definitely be selling more cruises."

Record Number of Agents Attend

It seems that travel agents are getting the message. Conference participation has surged year over year.

Terry Dale, CLIA's president and CEO, remarked at the beginning of the conference that a record 2,000 delegates were in attendance. At least 1,250 were travel agents, compared to 1,150 agents in 2006.

The influx of home-based agents to the industry showed itself at this year's conference.

"Each of the trainers asked how many participants were home-based, and I'd say it was 90 percent to 10 percent, home-based versus owners," says Sylvia Berman, owner of Post Haste Travel in Hollywood, FL.

Overall, Berman commended the conference's programs and, by gauging other travel agents' reactions, she believes that many shared her sentiment.

"I spoke to agents as they left some of the training programs and most felt that they learned a lot this year," she says. "For the agents that not only took the courses, but did the ship inspections, it was an even more rewarding experience." She suggests that some ship tours should have been longer than the allotted 30 minutes.

Berman says the programs this year contained more information than last year. She believes that if used, the conference will undoubtedly boost an agent's bottom line. "This is the best venue for learning the 'how-to' of selling cruises," Berman says.

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