CLIA doubled down this week on efforts to fight disinformation about the cruise industry, including by arming agents with talking points about shipboard crime and launching a blog by president and CEO Christine Duffy.
In an email to agents, CLIA president and CEO Christine Duffy said she planned to use her new blog to communicate about “some of the realities the industry faces, contrasting some of the misrepresentations or untruths that are repeated in the mainstream media.”
Duffy specifically cited recent news reports about shipboard crime and lax crime reporting. One such inflammatory report, which aired on CNN in July, was titled, “Cruise Security Experts: Predators at Sea.”
“In the event you are asked questions by customers, we want you to be prepared,” Duffy wrote in the email.
To help agents respond to concerns about shipboard crime, CLIA sent out talking points to use with customers (see sidebar) and a document titled “The Truth About Crime and Crime Reporting.”
In the CNN report on the show AC 360, correspondent Drew Gordon interviewed a teenage girl who alleged she was sexually assaulted on Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas by a member of the crew. Her family ended up settling its case with Royal Caribbean out of court.
The report contained an interview with a former cruise line employee who claimed it was commonplace for cruise ship staff members to commit crimes that go unreported. Another source in the CNN report claimed that that 85% of crimes committed by cruise staff are not reported.
“These claims could not be further from the truth and distort the cruise industry’s strong record on crime reporting and significantly overinflate the number of crimes occurring onboard cruise ships,” Duffy said in her email to agents.
Providing agents with info
CLIA is providing agents with information to address consumer worries because of the key role agents play in cruise distribution, CLIA spokesperson Lanie Morgenstern told Travel Market Report.
“The travel agent community is the primary distribution channel for cruise sales, accounting for 68% of cruises sold in 2011. Consequently, it is imperative that CLIA’s travel agent members have accurate, objective information on key issues such as crime and crime reporting in the event customers inquire about these issues.
“So as CLIA did with its Cruise Industry Safety Toolkit, we are proactively providing our travel agent partners the talking points and messages they need to respond to any potential inquiries,” said Morgenstern.
Travel sellers told Travel Market Report that their clients remain undeterred by negative press surrounding cruises.
Cindy Clifford, an agent at Gotta Go Cruises in Riverhead, N.Y., said it was likely just the media using scare tactics during a slow news period.
Amber Blecker, owner of a CruiseOne franchise in Aurora, Colo., said she “discounts” news reports like the piece that ran on CNN.
“I don't worry about it, because the people who are likely to cruise don't question it. A good cruise counselor can assuage their clients' fears.
“It is incumbent on cruise counselors to advise their clients, just like we did with the January (Costa Concordia) incident,” said Blecker. “You have to be proactive and go out into your community to talk about the low incidence of crime on cruises.”
CLIA provided agents with a fact-based rebuttal to the broad claims in the CNN report.
While the CNN piece asserted that public reporting of crimes on American cruise ships was first required by Congress in 2010, CLIA noted that the legal requirement to report serious crimes actually dates back to 1996.
The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA), passed by Congress in 2010, expanded the accountability of cruise lines, particularly concerning missing persons cases, CLIA explained in its Talking Points document.
The CNN report also claimed that only American vessels are required to report crimes to U.S. officials, but the law actually applies to all ships sailing to or from the U.S.
CLIA’s spokeswoman said the association plans to “continue to communicate frequently with our travel agent members on issues we are facing and clarify any misperceptions or inaccuracies raised by some of our industry’s well-known, biased critics.”