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CLIA celebrates Selling Cruise Day 2021 – an ‘enormously bright future is ahead’

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photo_camera Andy Harmer, Managing Director CLIA UK & Ireland, and Lucy Huxley, Editor-In-Chief Travel Weekly Group hosted the event.

CLIA celebrated its Selling Cruise Day today, welcoming key members from across the cruise industry and agents and cruise lines alike praised for their tireless efforts throughout the Covid pandemic.

CLIA Selling Cruise Day got off to a roaring start today complete with a contemporary bagpipes performances.

Agents, cruise lines and media alike attended a networking trade fair, supplying visitors with not only enough pens and notebooks to last a decade but valuable opportunities to meet other key players in the field.

The highlight of the day (apart from the dinner and drinks when the hard work was done) was the conference which included some very emotional speeches indeed, all hosted by Andy Harmer, Managing Director CLIA UK & Ireland, and Lucy Huxley, Editor-In-Chief Travel Weekly Group.

Following the positive news from Harmer that 75 to 80 percent of the world’s ships will be back by the end of 2021 (huzzah!), Royal Caribbean’s Ben Bouldin kicked off the keynote speeches.

The CLIA Chair revealed that, incredibly, capacity is higher in 2022 than 2019 – which was a phenomenal year.

In 2022 we are about to “embark on one of the most defining years,” said Bouldin, with 16 new ocean cruise ships and 10 river ships due to join the waterways of the world – and the opportunity is “vast”.

He urged the cruise industry to pull together to make sure “we are prepared to answer the influx of calls that are coming your way” and to educate those joining the sector.

Sustainability is also of the utmost importance, with CLIA due to announce an important update on Monday, marking a “significant step” – so stay tuned!

Jo Rzymowska from Celebrity Cruises joined a panel discussion with Huxley to report the industry is seeing “great demand and higher prices plus great guest satisfaction.”

However, she warned that “people won’t allow Covid as an excuse for poor service,” and that it’s our “responsibility to give holidaymakers the right information as they “want to trust in us.”

Resource will be a challenge, she said, and that’s it’s vital industry employees are trained up – “we need lots of movement,” Rzymowska added.

Elsewhere an exciting announcement came from Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL). Harry Sommer, President & CEO, revealed NCL Prima will be sailing out of Southampton next summer – with a test cruise departing on August 12. Agents look out for your invite!

The line is offering “new entertainment concepts, new dining concepts” said Sommer, and while safety remains paramount, we have to look beyond that. “A safe vacation is nice but a great vacation is better,” he quipped.

The most inspirational speech of the night came from Amar Latif who runs Travel Eyes, an adventure company for the visually impaired and an erstwhile Masterchef contestant. Completely blind himself, Amar moved the room with his words, resulting in a standing ovation.

“If there’s anything that I’ve learned over the course of my life it is that those difficult waters can become the biggest opportunities,” he said of the pandemic and its difficulties. “If you dare to push your limits, your world becomes bigger.”

“If you want something in this world that doesn’t exist you’ve got two choices: either you do without or you build it yourself,” he said of overcoming his own personal struggles.

To those floundering themselves, he advised: “If it feels that life just keeps dropping obstacles on you that are stopping you from going where you want to get to, one of the best things that you can do is just tilt your head a little and squint at it to trying to get a new perspective on things.”

As for travel, Latif’s favourite destination in the world is Cuba – but he admitted he still wants to visit Devon and Cornwall! Travel Eyes has taken holidaymakers on a wide range of cruises from river cruises on the Danube to ocean cruises in the Bahamas. “They are absolutely amazing.”

Jan Swartz, Chief of Holland America Group, was the penultimate keynote speaker of the day.

The last 20 months have been “full of growth, challenge and phenomenal teamwork,” she said, with everyone forced to dig deep “to find personal and professional resilience.”

She also shared insight into the infamous Covid breakout on Diamond Princes back in Spring 2020. “It gave us the opportunity to show who we are as a company,” she said, with Princess offering “genuine care” and learning that “honest transparent communication is what held us all together.”

“Support came from extraordinary places,” Swartz went on. Many might remember David and Sally Able who found unlikely fame after becoming stuck on Diamond Princess last year and took to social media to share their experiences.

Amazingly, the couple and Swartz have stayed in touch and still exchange emails. Princess sends them whiskey while the Able’s words have helped the cruise Chief in her “dark days” as a leader, she admitted.

The pandemic really “strengthened teamwork across the company and brands” with everyone rising to support one another, she added. Waiters even helped touch up the paint on chairs on Grand Princess!

There’s no denying cruising and consumers have changed forever, said Swartz – we have all “been reminded of how precious life is” and cruise lines have used the pause to “elevate guest experience.” We have an “enormously bright future ahead,” she enthused.

Following on from Swartz, Harmer concluded the CLIS conference by heralding the “can-do spirit” of cruise lines and communities – and it’s something we should never lose.

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