By Andy Harmer, SVP membership & director, UK & Ireland
Cruise Lines International Association UK & Ireland (CLIA).
In July in London, and later in the year in Manchester, CLIA is hosting two events that focus entirely on luxury and river cruising.
It is an opportunity for our travel agent members to be wholly updated on the latest products, itineraries and experiences that cruise lines will be offering in this space in the future.
The reason I mention the events is because 10 years ago we probably wouldn’t have even thought of having an event solely focussed on these sectors, but would have simply held a general cruise event; and that change in attitude and perception reflects a much wider and important change that has happened within the industry in the time that I have been involved.
When I joined the cruise industry in 2006 there were around 1.2 million Brits who took a cruise, and this year we anticipate around 2 million – so there is no doubt that the growth has been rapid, and significant.
That level of growth has been achieved because the ‘cruise holiday’ has evolved tremendously in the same period, and now offers a holiday that can be suitable for everyone.
Cruising can be river ship sailing in Asia, expedition cruising in Antarctica, contemporary family holidays in the Med, ultra-luxury trips to Alaska, and literally everything in between.
Cruising now produces an astonishing range and variety of experiences that we can genuinely say that there is a cruise for ‘everyone’ – and we can attract them by talking about any of the incredible experiences on offer – on-board dining, shore-side adventures, family activities, entertainment, new technology, enrichment, spas and fitness, and so on.
At no time in the history of cruising have we been able to offer so much choice to our customers – and as the make-up of our cruise guests change so too are cruise lines further enhancing their holiday offering to appeal to an even wider set of holidaymakers.
Cruise lines are responding to the changing face of customers, and to their changing needs, by building some amazing new ships, by visiting new destinations, by staying longer in port, and by offering something that makes them stand out from their competitors both onboard and ashore.
Think of some of the cruise line experiences now being offered to multi-generational families, to explorers and culture vultures, to foodies and young families, to single travellers and those looking to see places that have been on their bucket lists for a long time.
And look again at the coming Millennial Generation, likely to be the biggest and most affluent generation of our lifetime. This unlikely group of travellers are already telling us that they like using travel agents, and that they are interested in cruising.
Fortunately, cruising has a strong history of adapting to the changing needs of guests – and those changes will continue to be reflected in the different cruise holidays that are on offer.
Our ‘luxury and river cruise’ events are testament to the changing face of cruising, and our need to keep up to date with the ever-developing choice of holidays on offer. We will continue to showcase that choice at all of our events and online at cruiseexperts.org