Cruising into 2010 with CLIA John Hansen, president of the Northwest Cruiseship Association; CLIA executive vice-president, marketing and distribution Bob Sharak; CLIA president and CEO, Terry Dale; and Cunard’s director of marketing & PR Brian O’Connor. 18 DEC 2009: Cruise Lines International Association’s (CLIA’s) president Terry Dale sailed into town (well actually flew) with fellow senior execs and CLIA member Cunard’s Brian O’Connor, to dish out the latest cruise stats that will surely look appealing to agents and make ports-of-call cities widen their eyes to the huge revenue streams that come with the tsunami of cruising passengers arriving to Canadian shores.

First off, numbers speak volumes. The world’s largest cruise association reports when you consider that in 2009, over 775,000 Canadians took a cruise on one of the 25 CLIA member cruise ships that’s triple the number from ten years ago and is a 9.2% increase over 2008.

What does that mean? Dale says Canuck cruisers now represent 25.5% of all internationally sourced (non-US) cruise vacationers.

“Canada is a huge market for us," Dale explained. "There is no doubt that, as the cruise industry continues to grow and globalize its operations Canada is playing a bigger role, offering multiple appealing cruise destinations on both coasts.”

In fact, Canada’s burgeoning market which insiders say will only continue to grow, is so prevalent that their annual conference, cruise3sixty, normally held in Fort Lauderdale is re-positioning to Vancouver for the June 2-6 2010 event.

“A lot of our stakeholders, live, eat, breathe in Canada. For our travel agency communities we have 900. Canada is very critical to our future and we’re very excited to be here.”

Go east, cruisers – go east

One of the biggest success cruise stories of the past year involves Eastern Canada which is “a popular and growing cruise destination,” noted Dale.

I can vouch for that. This summer I was on board Holland America for its New England/Canada sail and not only was the MS Maasdam completely sold-out but passengers were making reservations for a round-trip while still on board.

One passenger I spoke to, a retired American piping baron, said he was so smitten by the history and generous Maritime spirit that he booked tickets for the return voyage back to Boston while on board. “I wish we could have spent two days in Quebec City,” said Bill from North Carolina about the 7-day route.

Meanwhile John Hansen, president of the North West Cruiseship Association (NWCA), reiterated how 2009 saw big cruise spending with $2.3-billion across Canada. “The good news is (Eastern Canada) continues to grow,” he remarked and later noted how this year about 300,000 people cruised New England into Canada.

It’s money, honey

CLIA’s 2009 total economic impact across the country:

⋅ $1.5 billion total economic impact in British Columbia

⋅ $275 million for Atlantic Canada and Quebec

⋅ $489 million in the rest of Canada

Surprisingly this spending spree includes products like wheat from Alberta, cheese from Quebec and includes environmental equipment and training aspects of some of the CLIA member fleets.

“It’s an interesting sideline, you don’t really expect that some of these procurement things occur,” Hansen said, and cited two examples, a firm in Burlington that provides waste water treatment equipment which “has become a major supplier” and is at the leading edge of technology with lots of cruise lines doing business, and secondly, cruises like Disney.

“They do all their entertainment training and development of their Broadway shows right here in Toronto.”

Go west, cruisers – go west

Among the regions, Hansen explained Vancouver is at the cornerstone of the Alaska cruise trade. British Columbia gets to reap a lot of the benefits from the Alaskan cruise traffic and accounts for two-thirds of the national impact.

“In any given year we will have about 1 million passengers. This year we had 28 ships in our membership fleet do Alaska.”

Room to grow

Hansen added the Great Lakes and Arctic cruises are also expected to grow in the future.

CLIA’s guru of marketing data, Bob Sharak, executive vice-president of marketing and distribution, laid down some hard numbers as he made his forecasts. Despite the overall slump in the economy, Sharak notes the cruising sector traditionally has been able to adapt and weather the storm when it comes to a crisis.

He pointed out a bar graph outlining 1980 to 2008 with a 7.4% growth rate and explained that even during challenges like the Oil crisis in the 80s and Desert Storm of the 90s it was business as usual.

For Canadian agents, “Alaska and Canada/New England are the popular routes,” Sharak explained. “6.9 million bed days for Alaska itineraries and since 2000 Alaska bed days have grown by 64%. While 1.9 million bed days for Canada/New England itineraries since 2000, Canada/New England bed days have increased by 69%.”

It’s no surprise the industry has added extra fleets with 14 new ships such as Carnival Cruise lines with its 3,646 passenger Carnival Dream, Celebrity with its 2,850 passenger Celebrity Equinox, and the world’s largest ship, the 5,400 passenger Oasis of the Seas from Royal Caribbean International.

Winning the popularity contest

Sharak cited several reasons for the cruising popularity:

⋅ more value packages and promotions (inclusivity, on-board dining, entertainment, cruises have remarkable value pricing)

⋅ 14 new ships (the diversity of products from the largest and smallest ships in the world which are able to attract all types of clients)

⋅ the evolution of onboard facilities

⋅ year-round markets

⋅ new exotic and remote ports

⋅ growth of domestic home ports (great for the economy)

⋅ Avalon Waterways became CLIA’s 3rd European Riverboat company

So what does the future hold?

Expect even more ships. Between 2010 and 2012, 26 CLIA ships are on order with 23 ocean vessels and three river boats.

And yes, size matters.

In 2010, the following vessels are expected to launch with RCI topping the list with its 5,400 pax Allure of the Seas.

⋅ RCI Allure of the Seas 5,400

⋅ NCL Epic 4,200

⋅ Celebrity Eclipse 2,850

⋅ MSC Magnifica 2,550

⋅ Costa Deliziosa 2,260

⋅ HAL Nieuw Amsterdam 2,100

⋅ Cunard Queen Elizabeth 2,092

But old salts who prefer smaller vessels need not feel like they’ve been abandoned either. The cruise industry identifies the importance of this sector and will unveil several boutique-size vessels in 2010 with the smallest vessel being the 101-pax Independence from American Cruise Lines.

⋅ Oceania Marina 1,260

⋅ Seabourn Sojourn 450

⋅ American Independence 101

⋅ Pearl Seas Pearl Mist 110

⋅ Avalon Waterways Felicity 138

⋅ Avalon Waterways Luminary 138

It’s about being professional

Looking closer to the Canadian market, Dale explained findings released from the CLIA’s latest agent survey released in November. Among the 150 Canadian agents polled, more than half (61%) have taken CLIA training in the past two years while nearly half (47%) are enrolled or are pursuing CLIA certification with nearly all (85%) considering PD and training as important.

“We’re all about training professional cruise sellers. Our job is to get our training into Canada further to get more Canadian agencies engaged in CLIA,” said Dale. “However way you learn we deliver the best way for you to learn. Whether you do it online, live classrooms or on DVD, no other travel association in North America has that comprehensive of a training package like CLIA has.”

The national outlook looks optimistic. When it comes to selling cruises travel agents cited two conditions: a strengthened Canadian economy and continued value pricing of cruises.

Other Canadian agent findings from CLIA’s November 2009 survey:

⋅ We’re positive. 92.5% indicate an optimistic view of travel overall; 97.7% express optimism in the cruise segment.

⋅ Nearly 80% expect an overall increase in cruise booking volume

⋅ Almost 70% expect those sales to translate into higher cruise revenues

⋅ New clients. Over 50% believe they will sell to more first-timers in 2010

⋅ Cruise products. Canadian cruisers prefer: contemporary (76.7%), premium (74.7%), river/coastal (50%), niche/destination (38%), luxury (31.3%), and expedition/adventure (5.3%)

⋅ Our top 10 destinations in expected cruise bookings are: Caribbean, Med, Alaska, Europe, Europe rivers, Panama Canal, Hawaii, Mexico, Baltic, and South America

⋅ Most likely customers are couples and families with “friends and multiple families travelling together” as the fastest growing cruise client category. Extended and multigenerational travel continues to rise

That’s making a splash!

CLIA evening in Toronto

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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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