Onsite: CLIA Bullish On State of Cruise Industry

How is the cruise industry faring? The innovation bar keeps rising on cruise ships, strong first quarter bookings augur a profitable year for travel agents and consumer demand is on the rise. Those are just three of the sentiments stemming from the Cruise Lines International Association's annual "What's New In Cruising" press conference Wednesday in New York. The numbers reported are quite telling that the cruise industry continues to impress: CLIA projects that 12.8 million cruise passengers will sail CLIA's member lines this year; of the total, 10.5 million will originate from North America, the rest from international markets.

What does this say about the industry? "Book early, book early, book often, book early," said a jubilant Terry Dale, president and CEO of CLIA. Dan Hanrahan, CLIA's marketing committee chairman and president & CEO of Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Cruises, noted continued growth in the European markets, which he compared to similar growth seen in the United States 15 years ago.

CLIA this year also polled 900 travel agents regarding a host of topics. They reported back that the Caribbean remains the hottest cruise destination with the Mediterranean (especially for pre and post stays), Alaska and Hawaii filling in behind. Regarding wave season, 90 percent of agents expected 2008 sales to be as good or better than last year. Hanrahan said that although wave season is still important, "it's not as high for bookings anymore," due in part to more people traveling at the spur of the moment.

The U.S. economic picture was also raised as a red flag that, perhaps, could negatively impact the cruise industry. However, as both Dale and Hanrahan put it, the cruise industry tends to do well when the economy isn't ticking along, mostly because of the value proposition. Hanrahan pointed out that consumers, during economic downturns, are more likely to pass on buying new material items, than forego their vacation. (DE)

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