A word about the event, before diving into the key highlights. Cruise3sixty is CLIA’s (Cruise Line Industry Association) annual conference. This year, CLIA’s 11th conference, over 1,200 cruise agents from 42 states, seven Canadian provinces, and 13 other countries joined the cruise line executives.
The Industry Is Growing at a Rapid Clip
In his welcome address, Adam M. Goldstein, CLIA Global Chairman and President & COO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, pointed out that 23 million guests will cruise in North America in 2015. That’s roughly the equivalent of the entire population of Australia—on 400 ships. Between 2015 and 2020, there are 55 new ships scheduled to be built, 33 ocean and 22 river, with an estimated US spend of $25.65 billion. That’s just to keep up with capacity.
It’s All About that Base
On a panel titled “It’s all about the Base,” industry veterans offered insights on how their brands retain their loyalty. Here are just a few:
- Royal Caribbean’s new Quantum of the Seas introduced bumper cars, robots that make drinks and skydiving.
- Celebrity Cruises offers a range of contemporary shows that include iMagic, a modern luxury interpretation of illusionism that uses holograms, lasers and iPads to tell the story.
- Norwegian Cruise Line introduced all-inclusive on 3 and 4-night sailings out of Miami. This is the first time a mass market cruise line has included beverages as part of the regular cruise fare.
- Princess Cruises is partnering with Norman Love, considered one of the best chocolatiers in the world.
- MSC Cruises is bringing like-minded individuals on board with themed cruises ranging from craft wine to motorcycle and holistic cruises. They also announced that they will be bringing two ultra-modern ships to North America to sail in the USA for the first time ever.
- Carnival LIVE 2015 concert series is presenting Boston, Heart, Lionel Richie and many more during cruises to the Bahamas, St. Thomas, Cozumel, or Catalina Island, California.
- Holland America Line revealed that their MS Koningsdam will feature a “Music Walk” section, including Lincoln Center Stage, playing a variety of nightly pieces curated from actual Lincoln Center’s classical music program.
Millennials a Target Audience
While retaining customers was an area of discussion, so was attracting new ones. Specifically, millennials. According to Nielsen, millennials are ¼ of North America’s population, about 77 million. Combine that with the fact that the estimated overall penetration of cruise in North America is 4%. The opportunity for cruise growth and building loyalty amongst millennials is tremendous.
To target this demographic, cruise line executives addressed plans to increase connectivity on the ships. Millennials love their mobile devices and expect connectivity everywhere, all the time.
New Markets, New Opportunities
Other hot topics included the opening of Cuba to US citizens, as well as growth of the Chinese cruise market. According to Morgan Stanley, China has potential to reach 3 million cruise passengers by 2020 vs. 0.7m last year, equating to 10% more passengers globally.
Luxury cruises and river cruising are two sub-sectors of the industry that are rapidly growing as well: Between 2009 and 2014, river cruising experienced 25% CAGR growth, the largest among North America CLIA brands. While the on-board experience on river cruising can be described as “boutique,” “personalized,” and “elegant,” river cruising is also all about the destination experience, offering cruises through rivers in Europe, Asia, South America, Africa, and North America.
New to Cruise3sixty was the Premium Members Executive Summit, of which Sojern was a sponsor. The Summit enabled Sojern to connect with over 100 CLIA members, from cruise line executives, to cruise agencies and consortiums, and media outlets.
In the Cruise Industry, Agents Remain Key Players
Cruise3sixty is one colossal thank you to the cruise agents from every cruise line. 70% of cruisers use a travel agent to plan and book cruise vacations, making the agents the backbone of the industry’s continued growth. The conference itself, via intense seminars, Q&A’s and ship inspections (approximately 19 this year), gives the agents a first-hand look at new amenities, all in an effort to help them better service their clientele.
Very similar to Sojern’s mantra of delivering the right message, to the right traveler, at the right time, it is imperative the agent understands the needs of their clients, and recommend the vacation that is going to best suit their needs. Recommending the perfect cruise is critical. It helps the agents gain the trust of their clients, and the clients build cruise line loyalties.
Best Thing About Cruise3sixty: The People, Always, the People
The best thing about the week was getting to know the cruise line executives, agents and sponsors in an informal setting. There is strong competition amongst the cruise lines, no doubt. But what is evident and refreshing are the friendships formed over the years. These people have tremendous mutual respect and love for one another.
I was thrilled to be a part of it, and to represent Sojern. A tremendous shout-out to my colleague Ken Lorey, who Sojern brought on as a Cruise Advisor last year. His advice and network have been invaluable to us!
Until next year, Happy Cruising…
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