Travel Agents and Cruise Lines Look Ahead at CLIA Cruise 360

by Daniel McCarthy
Travel Agents and Cruise Lines Look Ahead at CLIA Cruise 360


Business is strong, travel agents are thriving, and 2018 is off to an amazing start. That was the message from cruise line executives gathered in Ft. Lauderdale this week for the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Cruise 360 annual conference.

“We had a couple years where Europe has been soft … Caribbean is still soft … I stay awake at night thinking about the amount of product that is coming into this marketplace, but business feels good,” said Kimberly Wilson Wetty, co-owner and co-president of Valerie Wilson Travel.

In a panel moderated by Wilson Wetty — and including Holland America Line’s Orlando Ashford, Royal Caribbean’s Michael Bayley, Celebrity Cruises’ Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, Cunard's Josh Leibowitz, and MSC Cruises’ Rick Sasso — all expressed optimism for the year ahead and offered agents some words of advice on how to deal with a cruise industry that is rapidly filling with new brands and products.

The ‘why’ behind the brands
One thing that could make agents better advisors for their clients and better partners for the lines is understanding what makes one line different from the rest.

“For many years, Celebrity has tried to carve out a place that we could uniquely own with a modern luxury platform,” Lutoff-Perlo said.

Celebrity has continued to pursue that goal with its newest launch, Celebrity Edge, which is set to officially debut at the end of 2018. The purpose behind the design and layout of Edge — which features more dining choices than ever and a live music area, meeting space, and an open-air dining venue on a moving platform dubbed the Magic Carpet —  was to be uniquely Celebrity.

“It’s our responsibility to ensure we continue to do things that solidify the differentiation between us … my biggest frustration is the copying that goes on in the industry,” she added.

After 145 years in service, Holland America believes its place in the industry is to continue to do the things that has made it so successful over the last century-and-a-half or so, though the line will continue to look for additions through some partnerships such as the one it has with O Magazine.

“Ultimately, we need to make sure we’re building the right product to compete against land-based vacations,” Ashford said.

Cunard, a line that existed even before Holland America, is hoping to continue its success and its legacy in the industry by innovating and adapting, while also staying in touch with “why we traveled — the meaning of travel,” said Josh Leibowitz, senior vice president, Cunard North America.

On the other end of the spectrum, MSC Cruises, which has only been making a push in North America for the last 14 years, goes by a different mantra. “You heard the phrase, 'If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.' We go by a different phrase, 'If it’s not broken, make it better,'” said Rick Sasso, president and CEO of MSC Cruises.

With 14 ships entering service over the last 14 years and ten more set to come, MSC is busy designing ships that will not only fit in the marketplace now, but will be relevant in the future.

“The types of ships that we’re designing are different platforms to address what we think cruising will be like for the next 20 years,” Sasso said. “We’ve said, let’s just keep making it better.”

The road ahead for agents
MSC may have the most ambitious expansion plan in the industry, but every single line is ready to grow.

According to Cunard’s Leibowitz, last year there were 25 million cruisers around the world; and in the next five years, the industry will need seven million more, most of them from the U.S.

“What we need from the travel agents … it’s because you play a role in helping people decide what they do on vacation. There are plenty of people that fill all of our ships and all of our ships are unique,” he said. “If you want to double your business over the next five years, you have the opportunity to do it.”

To do so, agents need to convince people who have not dipped a toe in the cruise world to try it.

Lutoff-Perlo, who started her career as an agent and then went on to become a district sales manager, said she remembers a time when people weren’t as “open as they needed to be to cruising.” And that she still “can’t believe, 33 years later, people still say, 'Cruising isn’t for me.'”

For cruise lines to be successful in this growth phase, they will need good agents to bring those first-time clients to ports.

“What we are trying to carve out is that we’ve done everything we believe we can, going after an affluent traveler, with hardware … to get them to look at that ship and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m wrong, cruising is for me,’” added Lutoff-Perlo.

  0
  0
Tip of the Day

Something could happen to any of us, the loved ones we travel with, or in this case, to the magnificent marvels put up by those who came before us. So we must travel as far and as often as time and money allow.


Stefanie Katz, The Travel Superhero

Daily Top List

Five Good Reasons to Tell Your Clients About Loyalty Programs

1. Saves money for your clients.

2. Saves time for your corporate clients.

3. Gets all sorts of perks for your clients.

4. Offers enhanced reporting to corporate clients.

5. Provides better service and better client relationships.

Source: TMR.

TMR THIS WEEK
http://services.travelsavers.com/AMGService.svc/REST/GetImage?ImageID=b75eceda-865f-e911-b4aa-782bcb66a2f2

5 Good Reasons to Tell Your Clients About Travel Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs, also known as frequent buyer programs, have been around for a long time. But you might be surprised to know that many travelers don’t know about them. Here are five good reasons for travel advisors to spread the word to their customers, both leisure and corporate travelers.

TMR Recommendations
Top Stories
Cruise Lines Awaiting New Cuba Rules, Making No Changes to Current Itineraries
Cruise Lines Awaiting New Cuba Rules, Making No Changes to Current Itineraries

With travel to Cuba up in the air, cruise lines like Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and more are awaiting word on apparent new regulations.

Carnival Cruise Line Returning to Antigua
Carnival Cruise Line Returning to Antigua

After Carnival Corp. reached an agreement with the government of Antigua, its cruise lines are set to return to the island as a port of call for Caribbean itineraries.

Even with Progress Already Made, There’s Still Room for Cruise Industry to Grow
Even with Progress Already Made, There’s Still Room for Cruise Industry to Grow

New players coming into the industry, like Virgin Voyages and Ritz Carlton-Yacht Collection, are raising the bar, forcing legacy players to adapt and change, lifting the industry higher.

Federal Court to Decide on Blocking Carnival Ships from U.S. Ports on June 24
Federal Court to Decide on Blocking Carnival Ships from U.S. Ports on June 24

Carnival Corp. and all its brands will continue to operate its normal cruise schedule.

Tauck Planning Three Itineraries and a New Ship for Douro Debut
Tauck Planning Three Itineraries and a New Ship for Douro Debut

The ship’s capacity could have reached 112 guests, but the line purposely limited it to 84 guests to ensure the highest levels of care and service.

Scenic Eclipse Still on Track for August Debut
Scenic Eclipse Still on Track for August Debut

With 228 guests, the vessel will sail exploration itineraries, including cruises to the Arctic and Antarctic.

News Briefs
TMR Report Cards & Outlooks
Advertiser's Voice
Advertiser's Voice: Tropics and Exotics 2020 -2021 Collection