Cruise Lines International Association’s 8th annual cruise3sixty conference and trade show, registered more than 1,200 travel agent delegates from 42 states, seven Canadian provinces, and 13 other countries, including China, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and Australia, Cruise Lines International Association reports in its post-conference wrap-up.
A record-breaking 3,144 participants attended the 18 Cruise Lines International Association professional development and training seminars, up from 1,365 when cruise3sixty was first established.
The focus of the conference was the future of travel agents as the Cruise Lines International Association, with support of the American Society of Travel Agents, issued a report titled “From Travel Agent to Travel Adviser: Defining, Elevating and Promoting the Role of Travel Agents for the Next Generation”.
Cruise Lines International Association’s President and CEO Christine Duffy and Roger Dow, CEO of the United States Travel Association, also rallied delegates in support of the association’s nationwide Vote Travel – Get America Moving grassroots campaign to call attention to the economic importance of the travel industry.
In announcing the Next Generation of Travel Agents report, Duffy said, “Our aim is to begin a meaningful, industry-wide discussion that articulates the unique role agents play in today’s travel industry and considers the steps necessary to develop a strategic roadmap for developing the next generation of agents.”
American Society of Travel Agents CEO Tony Gonchar added that the report was an “excellent first step to help begin a dialogue with the travel industry to ensure the future growth of the travel agency community”.
“The American Society of Travel Agents is a strong believer in ensuring that we have a thriving retail travel industry and has worked closely with Cruise Lines International Association in the creation of this report, as well as with the White House to develop initiatives such as the Joining Forces Travel Industry Coalition, which has a goal of bringing 3,000 industry jobs to US vets and their spouses by 2014,” he said.
Pent up demand
During the opening day general session on 27 April, A Cruise Industry Perspective, a panel of cruise line CEOs discussed issues ranging from business forecasts to marketing, industry innovations and the future role of technology. The executives agreed recent sales figures point to continued recovery in the industry and predicted that pent up demand will help drive stronger results in the coming months.
Headlining another general session, marketing consultant Rick Barrera urged agents to “overpromise and over-deliver” as a way to establish a unique and compelling personal brand. Citing Apple and other companies that stand out as “radically different” from competitors, he advised the audience to align all aspects of their business, from the product to the human element, to deliver a comprehensive, totally relevant experience. A panel of cruise line executives then offered their perspective on marketing strategies.
In addition to Cruise Lines International Association training and seminars, conference attendees participated in the inspections of more than a dozen cruise ships in nearby ports, and visited the 300 exhibitor trade show.
Other highlights of cruise3sixty included destination and travel industry supplier workshops and several panel discussions featuring cruise line executives and other experts on ways to build niche or special interest cruise business, develop group sales, create effective marketing strategies and other topics.