President and CEO Cindy D’Aoust led a bullish Clia Conference in Southampton, with important keynote speeches from MSC and Saga, writes Sam Ballard
The number of British passengers taking a cruise is due to climb above two million for the first time, according to the global boss of Clia.
Speaking at the 2018 cruise conference, Cindy D’Aoust, the association’s president and CEO, said: “The word that most accurately describes cruising is ‘growth’.
“We expect in 2018 to have more than 28 million ocean cruise passengers around the world. A little closer to home, I’m happy to report that the UK will be the second largest market in Europe and the fourth biggest in the world – we expect it to exceed two million travellers in 2018.”
Clia also announced that it would be holding its next river conference in Paris on November 10 and 11. The association is also going to be launching a quarterly podcast.
Other speakers at the cruise conference included Gianni Onorato, the CEO of MSC, who revealed that the company’s in-cabin digital assistant – an industry first – would be called Zoe.
“As a family-owned company with over 300 years of seafaring heritage, it is a maritime tradition to involve the female members of the family in key events and developments,” he explained. “Zoe is a family name as well as being a name that is internationally recognised and easy to pronounce no matter what language a guest speaks.”
MSC also invited all delegates in the room, including those from other cruise lines, on board for the launch of Belissima in Southampton next March.
Saga’s Iain Powell made the same offer to all 450 agents in the room for Spirit of Discovery in July 2019.
During his keynote speech, Chris Austin, the senior vice-president of global sales and marketing for Seabourn, said that travel agents who wanted to sell to luxury guests had to make a connection with them.
He added that, within the luxury segment, which would be seeing an 18 per cent increase by 2021, 36 per cent of passengers were first‑time cruisers. That high proportion of first-time-cruise passengers had led the company to develop a number of luxury brand partnerships, he said.
“We put a lot of focus on differentiating the brand through partnerships. It is a great way to unlock that luxury land-lover.”
The message from a number of the speakers was that they were no longer challenging other cruise lines for future guests, focusing instead on land-based resorts.
Research suggests that the cruise industry accounts for just 2 per cent of the global holiday market.
The Clia Cruise Podcast, which will launch at the end of the month, will feature interviews with key industry executives as well as discussions covering industry trends and analysis. The first episode will feature Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, the boss of Celebrity Cruises.
“In the last agent survey, 89 per cent of respondents valued our role in terms of providing an industry-level commentary, analysis and opinion on key industry issues,” Andy Harmer, the director of Clia UK and Ireland, explained. “We hope that these podcasts will be an accessible and entertaining way for us to communicate with our agents.”