Cruising will never go out of season. Ships continue to get bigger and better, and demand for new and exotic destinations keep growing. To get the inside scoop on what’s trending in the cruise segment today, we turned to Cindy D’Aoust, Acting CEO of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the world’s largest cruise industry trade association with 62 member cruise lines and 30,000 travel agent members.
1) How did the cruise industry fare in 2015?
The cruise industry had a phenomenal year in 2015, as we expect to reach 23 million passengers. We foresee that growth continuing in 2016 based on feedback from our travel agents. In a recent survey, eight out of 10 CLIA travel agent members stated they are expecting an increase in cruise sales in 2016 over last year.
2) What was the biggest news coming out of the cruise industry in 2015, and what long-lasting effects did it have on the industry as a whole?
There were so many exciting developments that happened in 2015, including the rise of voluntourism, an abundance of new ships and, of course, the growing ability to stay connected while at sea. If I had to choose only one, it would be the progression of the Asia cruise market. 2015 was a record-breaking year for Asia with passenger capacity growing 20%.
There are now more cruises and itineraries being offered in Asia, and we are going to see that trend continue into 2016, with more cruise lines moving ships to Asia and building new ones for the region. Cruising in the region includes more than 168 destinations across 18 countries, making travelling by cruise ship one of the easiest and best ways to see what Asia has to offer.
3) What cruising trends do you foresee in 2016?
We released our 2015 State of the Cruise Industry at the end of last year, and the industry shows no signs of slowing down. With 24 million passengers expected to set sail in 2016, a dramatic increase from 15 million just 10 years prior, the industry is continuing to grow and evolve to deliver the best overall cruise vacation experience to meet consumer demand.
A current top trend that will remain in 2016 is the rise of river cruising. CLIA Cruise Line Members currently deploy 170 river cruise ships, offering a ton of great options for travellers, ranging from luxury to specialty yachts.
Another trend that demonstrates the evolution of the cruise industry is that ships are now the destination. While cruise ships were once considered a mode of transportation to get to a desired destination, today a cruise ship offers the experience of a destination with unprecedented onboard experiences and amenities for travellers.
4) What can travel agents do this year to increase their cruise sales?
Take advantage of CLIA trainings, educational webinars and events where they can learn to leverage their skills to sell more cruises. CLIA offers so many resources to help travel agents build their business.
I’d also encourage travel agents to engage with their clients throughout the entire travel process. The interaction with clients doesn’t end once a cruise is booked. Especially for those who have never cruised, help your clients prepare for their cruise and answer questions about the onboard and shore experiences. After their trip is complete, reach out to clients to ask them about their vacation. This follow-up builds a lasting relationship as well as helps lead to their next booking.
5) What’s new for CLIA in 2016?
CLIA will always be focused on working on behalf of the industry and travel professionals and being the unified global organization that helps its members succeed by advocating, education and promoting for the common interests of the cruise community.
In addition, we will be collaborating with other industry associations to work together to promote the cruise community and build upon the successful initiatives of recent years.
In June, we will be focusing on our past success of Cruise360 and delivering an even more meaningful, personalized experience that has become the premiere event for travel professionals.
Cruise360 will be held in the beautiful backdrop of Vancouver, British Columbia. We are updating our general sessions and professional developments opportunities for attendees, giving travel professionals unprecedented access to the tools they need to succeed in the industry.
For more information, visit cruising.org.