There's a magic to cruising – an emotional connection to the sea and an excitement about sailing on the open water and experiencing new people, places and cultures. This is an industry built on dreams of faraway places, new experiences, bringing a family closer together, getting away from the ordinary. And it’s the job of all of us at CLIA, including our members, to make those dreams come true. During my first year as Global Chairman of CLIA, I’ve had the opportunity to work with the team to showcase that message and I’m proud of our achievements so far.
We are in a golden age of cruising. The industry is performing well and ships are sailing full. More than 27 million people are expected to take a cruise in 2018 and the number of cruisers has increased by more than 20 percent in five years. Brands are differentiated, offering a wide variety of experiences to different market segments, so everyone can find the right cruise for them. The keys to unlocking further growth are to better communicate the tremendous experience and value of cruising and to exceed the expectations of guests when they are onboard.
One trend we’ve seen is an even greater focus on sustainable tourism. Cruise travellers can now participate in sustainable practices from recycling to “voluntourism” initiatives. We’ve also seen the next evolution of experiential travel, such as indulging in local cuisine, taking guided tours through small villages and even visiting private homes. The cruise industry is responding to the trend for wellness vacations with onboard health seminars, custom fitness programs, stress management and spa services.
Travel agents continue to see steady demand, which is great for the cruise industry as they are key in helping travellers find the right brand, ship and itinerary. This will help ensure they have an extraordinary experience that will not only keep them coming back for future trips, but also turn them into advocates for cruising. The more we can help our travel agent partners make the process of choosing and booking a cruise easier, the more successful our industry will be.
In terms of technology, a big area of innovation involves transforming the total guest experience, from dining and entertainment to innovative ship designs and smart uses of space. Several cruise lines offer wearable technology that interacts with sensors and does everything from turning the lights on to acting as a security agent. As technology continues to transform the industry, industry members are making an effort to ensure its safe implementation. The International Association of Classification Societies has been key in working with industry groups to establish cyber security guidelines.
The industry continues to expand to emerging markets including China, which we expect will one day be the largest cruise market in the world. Looking at the broader picture, all markets are under-penetrated. We make up less than two percent of hotel rooms across the globe. So as we continue to generate awareness of cruising as an extraordinary vacation at an exceptional value, we have a tremendous potential for growth.
What role does CLIA play? By definition, CLIA is the unified global organisation helping the cruise industry succeed by advocating, educating and promoting the common interests of the cruise community. One of our key areas of focus is to help member cruise lines reach the “new to cruise” segment. CLIA and its members seek to educate policymakers in many cruise-related areas of public interest and work to facilitate legal and regulatory frameworks that will foster continued, sustainable growth in cruising.
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