Special Report: Clia Cruise Forum

Special Report: Clia Cruise Forum

Leading cruise agents and suppliers gathered in Windsor for Clia’s annual forum last week. Natasha Salmon reports

View our gallery of the event here

‘Give your brand purpose to help growth and loyalty’

Cruise operators must look to companies such as Dove and Apple to create a “bigger brand” to attract new cruisers.

Speaking at the Clia Cruise Forum, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, Celebrity Cruises president and chief executive, said new cruisers, especially younger travellers, were drawn to brands that mean something to them.

She used Dove as an example of a struggling soap brand that promoted female body positivity or Apple, which raised millions for HIV and Aids research.

“Companies must think, ‘how does your brand become bigger than just what you do?’,” said Lutoff-Perlo. “And how do you spread a message that makes people feel differently and more emotionally connected to your brand than they otherwise would?

“Dove is a great example; it was finding itself a little less relevant in a competitive market so they took a new approach to soap and beauty.”

Lutoff-Perlo said millennials especially cared more about experiences and what the companies care about.

Celebrity sponsors LGBT Pride events and targets LGBT travellers in its marketing. It also has partnerships with the World Wildlife Fund and Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

“When brands create their own purpose, which customers can relate to, it creates loyalty and helps businesses grow.

“We bring together people of all shapes, sizes, colours and religion; if our message is celebrating diversity, then we must embrace it.”

She also said Clia members had a responsibility to dispel negative rhetoric after recent global events.

“We are living in a time where people are talking about not travelling. We have to make sure that we counteract that negative rhetoric and continue to tell the positive story about going to new places, meeting new people and experiencing new cultures.”

Ban on Sharm flights has removed Brits’ resilience

The resilience of British travellers has been taken away from them by the UK government, according to the Mail on Sunday’s travel editor.

Frank Barrett said UK travellers would have remained loyal to Sharm el-Sheikh and Tunisia if the Foreign Office had not issued flight bans.

He said: “The problem is that we have had our resilience taken away from us. The government has told us we can’t go to Sharm el-Sheikh or Tunisia and they are one of the few governments to do so; other places like Germany are going now.

“It’s impacting the whole country.

“The terrorists have killed lots of people, which is very sad, but then governments are saying we’re not going to send any more tourists to your country. The country’s economy is then going to go down the drain as a result.

“The travel industry has a responsibility to say let’s not support this, let’s go to Sharm el-Sheikh airport and say this is what you need to change, because we can help.”

Barrett also reflected on 2016’s events and how this could impact travel in 2017.

“The holiday business has not been in good shape since 2000 when it flatlined, especially if we think about how much it really grew in the 1980s and 1990s.

“Value will always remain the number one thing and people are always looking for reasons to travel.

“We need to look at why people travel and what they want to do when they get there.”

Barrett said people like to travel to places ‘where history is being made’ such as the World Cup and the Olympics.

New Clia chairman Stuart Leven talks of exciting times

Clia UK and Ireland’s new chairman said agents must focus on repeat business as well as new-to-cruise customers.

Stuart Leven, RCL Cruises vice-president for EMEA, was named as the new chairman at last week’s forum.

He said he was ready for a “busy but fun” couple of years during what he described as a pivotal time for the industry.

“We are in one of those moments in time for the cruise industry where we have a massive opportunity to steer change of how cruise is seen in the UK,” Leven said. “Clia has focused heavily on trying to get new-to-cruise customers.

“We need to continue this but also enable agents to find the right cruises for those new customers so they come back for a second and third holiday.

“This is one of the most exciting times for cruise yet.”

Leven, who will serve as chairman until 2018, will take over from UK managing director of Holland America Line and Seabourn, Lynn Narraway.

Clia membership grows by 22% in 2016

Clia welcomed almost 700 new members to the association in 2016.

Clia UK & Ireland director Andy Harmer, said agent membership had increased by 22% taking the total to 3,912.

Harmer also said its upgraded website had attracted 1,000 new users. “We have seen a 32% increase in Master-accredited agents – that’s more travel agents completing our online training.”

Clia president and chief executive Cindy D’Aoust said the industry’s growth depended on its commitment to working together. She said: “When we pull together our voice is louder and influence is greater.”

Host predicts move to all-inclusive and fixed price holidays

The pound’s value will not fall any further, according to BBC news reporter Ben Thompson.

Speaking at the Clia Forum the Business Live host predicted a move towards more fixed-price and all-inclusive holidays.

“The pound is down by about 15% since June, but I don’t think we will go to 25%.

“If we were going to see the pound fall further, it would already be there.”

Thompson said Brexit was likely to bring about a ‘double whammy’ with inflation and also slow wage growth.

“We will see an impact on inflation, and that will affect our spending on everyday things, which will impact the money we have to do nice things, such as holidays.

“But on the other hand this could focus peoples’ minds on what they want to do and spend their money on.

“In travel this could see a move towards fixed price holidays and all-inclusive rather than luxury.

“We don’t know what is around the corner but businesses just get on with things and small business-like agencies can be pretty resilient.

“Brexit may change how customers shop around if there is more emphasis on value rather than destination, but people will still need to travel.”

Clia Cruise Excellence Award winners

Clia UK and Ireland honoured top-performing agents at the annual Cruise Excellence Awards.

The awards for outstanding contribution to the UK and Ireland cruise community went to Karen Doyle, of Tui Group, and Wendy Lahmich, of Holland America Line and Seabourn.

Agent winners


Rising star: Forever Cruises
Innovation in Cruise: Tui
Online travel agency of the year: Iglu Cruises
High street travel agency of the year: Barrhead Travel
Travel agent business of the year: Cruise.co.uk
Cruise advocate of the year: Janet Whittingham, Travel Counsellors
Cruise manager of the year: Clare Dudley, Ponders Travel

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