By Andy Harmer, senior vice president membership, director at CLIA UK & Ireland.
I was luckily enough to spend a long weekend cruising the Greek islands at the end of last month; with each island offering a different personality, different views and the renowned Greek welcome.
From watching the sunset on Santorini, to the fabulous narrow lanes on Mykonos, and the incredibly exciting and historical city of Athens, this is very much one of my favourite parts of the world.
It is an area of the Med that is almost purpose built for cruising – with short distances between islands, great food and weather, and a variety of experiences available that appeal to a whole range of holidaymakers.
Yet when we think about the Med we often forget some of those cruise ports and areas that are so appealing and so incredible, and that many cruise guests find as a welcome surprise in-between some of the better-known ports.
I really loved visiting Kotor for example, have enjoyed exploring the city of Dubrovnik, and enjoy visiting those Spanish ports of Valencia and Malaga.
In fact, so rich is the Mediterranean with wonderful ports and experiences, that you can cruise the Med many times and still find something new every day – it is little wonder that it is the preferred cruising destination for Brits by a large margin, and that we see so many cruise lines invest in the ports and shore excursions that are offered there.
The challenge for travel agents is having and retaining the knowledge of not just the hero ports, but also the lesser known ports too. And remember that the Med is just one of the many cruising destinations around the world.
It is no surprise that as CLIA we are shining the focus of our attention onto Cruise destinations. From Cruise360 in Copenhagen in September, to Amsterdam in November for our River Cruise Conference, to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam in April for our first ever Asian event. The chance to add some destination immersion into our events is a great opportunity to learn more about some of the destination experiences offered by both our ocean and our river cruise lines.
Plan a Cruise Month in October – our industry push to reach the ‘yet to cruise’ holidaymaker – will also have a destination theme.
These events and campaigns complement our online resources and material – so there really is easy access to the whole range of essential destination information.
Of course, destinations change, as do the shore excursions available – so keeping up to date is just as important. The best approach is to keep up to date using the resources and news offered by our travel trade media, the cruise lines, and CLIA. And talk to returning customers to understand their experiences too whilst it is fresh in their mind.
For cruise sellers, knowledge is power, and destination expertise is a crucial skill for growing cruise sales.