Much has been made over recent years of attracting new-to-cruise customers, and one of the most effective ways to achieve that is to “bust the cruise myths and misconceptions”, says CLIA’s trade membership and events manager, Adele Fitzpatrick-Foster.
In an in-depth interview with Cruise Trade News, Fitzpatrick-Foster discusses relationships with the travel trade, her dream cruise destination and the growth in river cruising.
How long have you been in your current role and what attracted you to it?
I have been in the travel industry since leaving university and it was while working at TV Travel Shop that my interest in the sector started to grow. While there, I helped in the training department, where I met the now CLIA director, Andy Harmer. I then took a position at Thomas Cook TV, when I was approached by Andy to become part of his team at the then-named ACE, building on the training, development and events programme. That was over ten years ago.
What are your key duties in your role?
My key duties are to organise and deliver trade events for travel agents. We have around 20 events that take place each year across the UK and Ireland, Europe and further afield. The events range from one of our biggest, the annual CLIA Conference, which runs over three days, attracting over 600 delegates, to our smaller roadshow events, where we visit different regions and invite travel agents to meet our cruise line members and sponsors.
What are your biggest challenges in the cruise sector?
Busting the cruise myths and misconceptions. I have heard so many times from people who have never cruised before that they don’t think a cruise is for them. People may think they’d feel ‘stuck’ on the ship without much to do, or that cruises are too formal, or too organised. The reality, of course, couldn’t be more opposite but you really need to go on a cruise to know how amazing they are.
How do you think the industry will change over the coming years?
The days of river cruises being a marginal part of the industry will be over as they are growing in popularity at an unprecedented rate. Expedition cruises are also becoming increasingly popular as they offer the definition of adventure. This type of cruise will become more accessible as new ships enter the market – 15 new expedition ships are due for delivery over the next two years. And, as more travellers seek luxury for their holiday, you can expect to see more ships – ocean, river and expedition – become more luxurious, no matter the cruise line.
What do you like best about cruise?
I love how diverse the industry is. Each cruise line has something unique to offer to their guests, meaning there truly is a cruise for everyone – even for those who don’t think they’d enjoy this type of holiday. Cruising can quickly become an addictive form of travel. I love it when people who were sceptics at first become cruise converts straight after their first cruise – it just proves how fantastic this industry is.
What is CLIA doing to engage with trade?
We recently held our annual CLIA Luxury Showcase in Malaga and our River Cruise Conference in Paris, where agents enjoyed ship visits and talks from experts in the industry. Next year, we will be hosting our first ever expedition cruise forum, taking place in London on 28 March. All these events offer agents the opportunity to gain a deeper insight into these sectors to help them confidently sell to their clients.
What’s your dream cruise destination?
Alaska has always been on the travel bucket list and I believe the best way to see Alaska is by cruise ship, no doubt about it. I would also absolutely love to take a river cruise in Africa, spending each day spotting amazing wildlife and watching incredible sunsets.
What are you looking forward to the most over the next 12 months?
We have our CLIA Forum and Winter Ball coming up soon, which is always a fabulous event. It’s a great way to celebrate the last year and to reflect the fantastic work the travel agents have done for the industry as we host our Cruise Excellence Awards at this event. Next year, I’m looking forward to the CLIA 2019 Conference – one of my favourite events – which will include ship visits on Celebrity Cruises’ newest ship, Celebrity Edge, Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 and MSC Preziosa. Plus, the event will include a trade fair, conference sessions with experts from both inside and outside the industry, and a fabulous gala dinner.
Tips to take advantage of CLIA membership:
- Get to CLIA events. These range in size, from small regional roadshows to large-scale events that include fascinating talks from experts inside and outside the industry, as well as gala dinners with entertainment
- Make the most of the training and learning resources created and supplied by CLIA. These resources have been proven to help agents sell cruises as it offers selling advice, marketing tips and inside knowledge into the industry
- The CLIA weekly e-newsletter aims to keep agent members up-to-date with the latest cruise news, so they’re always in the know. In addition, subscribers also gain direct access to tips, insights, competitions and more