The Cruise Industry’s Resilience: Future on Display at CLIA Cruise360.

The “us cruises” is a cruise industry conference that took place in Miami, Florida. The event showcased the industry’s resilience and future on display.

On Tuesday, March 29th through Saturday, April 2nd, the Cruise Lines International Association’s (CLIA) 2022 Cruise360 conference began and continued with optimism, providing training for travel advisors on key skills, CLIA certification classes, destination and cruise line workshops, as well as an update on cruising from key leaders in the industry.

General sessions with leaders from CLIA’s member cruise lines, workshops on destinations ranging from Japan and Singapore to Barbados and the Dominican Republic, and training on skills ranging from marketing and selling techniques to introductory courses on CLIA’s member cruise lines, which include Carnival Corp., Royal Caribbean International, and Norwegian Cruise Lines Holdings’ brands, among others, were among the events.

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The event also provided an update on the state of the cruise industry during two general sessions that included speakers like Harry Sommer, President & CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, Nikki Upshaw, Senior Vice President, Sales for Oceania Cruises as well as Adolfo Perez, Senior Vice President of Global Sales & Marketing at Carnival Cruise Line, who also accepted this year’s CLIA Cruise Hall of Fame 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award at a ceremony during the conference.

CLIA Lifetime Achievement Awards Perez was honored with a CLIA Hall of Fame induction. (Image courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line)

The CEOs were unified in their optimism for the cruise industry’s future.

The “renaissance of the travel adviser profession has started!” proclaimed Charles Silvia ECC, Vice President, Industry and Trade Relations for CLIA and host of the general sessions.

Princess Shands and Darcy Solis, both newcomers to the industry, were among those who attended the event for the first time.

Shands Happy Travels is owned by Princess Shands of Dinwiddie, Virginia, and she is a member of InteleTravel. Shands considers the learning experiences at Cruise360 beneficial after launching her business during the epidemic about a year ago while continuing her profession as a federal government auditor: “The most satisfying thing is…just being here, surrounded by the business, and learning so much about these cruise lines, things that weren’t actually in front of me back home,” she says.

Darcy Solis, a member of InteleTravel and an independent agent from San Antonio, Texas, started her profession as an independent agent just four months ago. After years of organizing trips for members of her family, she decided to pursue a career as a travel adviser. “For so many years, I did it for free!”

She was alerted about the event after requesting to become a member of CLIA, and she chose to go in order to obtain a better understanding of the cruise business.

There are reasons to be positive about the industry’s future. The CDC, which is similar to the US State Department’s travel warnings, lifted its Travel Health Notice for cruise on March 30 during the event, after more than two years on the list.

President & CEO of CLIA, Kelly Craighead, was the first to applaud the news during the event: “As many of you know, the cruise industry in the United States went on a very long pause in March of 2020. And long after the world had started to reopen to cruising, with our cruise line leaders engaging experts in medicine and science to create protocols that were effective…the United States was still not operating…”

“If you haven’t seen the news today, the Travel Health Notice prohibiting individuals from cruising has been revoked… And that’s fantastic because it begins to treat us in the same way that other land-based venues are treated, which means the game is on.”

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According to Craighead, the cruising sector in the United States is worth $5.5 billion and employs at least 350,000 people. Many cruise companies have spent the previous two years innovating, committing to sustainability while also striving to promote their brands.

Oceania Cruises’ Senior Vice President of Sales, Nikki Upshaw, mentioned two important things the cruise line has been working on as it prepares to welcome its entire fleet back into service this week; it’s one of many lines that announced this year that their entire fleets would be returning to service for the first time since the pandemic began.

“First and foremost, we understood that we needed to spend more than ever in travel partner training, education, and tools,” Upshaw said at the Cruise360 trade expo. “So we spent a lot of time thinking about how we could not only provide more possibilities for people to learn about Oceania, but also how we could be better business partners by providing them with selling techniques, business ideas, affinity group ideas… But we’ve also put effort into our brand.”

“With a new ship, Vista, arriving next year, [we’re] thinking about how we make sure Oceania Cruises remains faithful to the customers who have come to us time and time again, while also evolving with the visitors who are now searching for a variety of premium experiences.”

As part of these new premium experiences, the cruise company introduced two new excursion categories this week: Go Green and Beyond Blueprints, which cater to tourists interested in sustainability and architecture.

The cruise lines aren’t the only ones who are optimistic. Destinations and tourist groups such as Cruise Baltic, the Japan National Tourism Organization, and Cruise Barbados were also present at Cruise360.

Barbados is an excellent example of a place that is hopeful about the resumption of cruising. Tourism is the island’s main economic driver, as it is for many others in the Caribbean, and as a result, it was hard hit by the pandemic, according to Tia Broomes, Cruise Barbados’ Business Development Officer, who attended Cruise360’s trade show and co-hosted a destination workshop for attending advisors.

On June 7, 2021, cruising resumed in Barbados, with at least sixteen ships embarking on their first Caribbean journeys, which were only feasible thanks to the island’s health and safety measures.

Broomes said, “We had to design all of these rules to guarantee that we restarted operations securely because we wanted to safeguard not just the cruise passengers, but also our local community.” “…they really enabled us to conduct our cruise business securely and to prevent any spillover on-island from cruise activities, so far, so good.”

With so many cruise ships already visiting Barbados, the island is enthusiastic about the future, but Broomes stressed the importance of travel advisers in the island’s recovery: “…Travel agents are the gatekeepers of our narrative, particularly for cruises.” They’re the ones who communicate the holiday’s value proposition…they’re the ones who assist explain the value of seeing new places. We consider travel agents as a critical component of our campaign to bring visitors to the island and encourage them to spend money while they are there.”

The future of cruising is starting to seem better than ever after two challenging years.

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