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Cruise Week exclusive: ‘Unprecedented demand to learn about cruise’

CLIA Andy Harmer, Cruise week

Following on from CLIA Cruise Week, which ran from 18-23 September, the association’s UK & Ireland MD Andy Harmer discusses the key talking points from the initiative and examines why travel agents are engaging in events more than ever before.

Overall, how successful was Cruise Week?

We had our highest-ever engagement last week. We’re still collecting the numbers but we had almost 1,000 agents engage in content on the Monday.

The whole point of Cruise Week is to help showcase the opportunity that cruise offers and encourage our travel agent partners to talk about cruise. It was an opportunity for us to continue to dispel myths.

What do you attribute that level of engagement to?

Cruise is having a great year and interest from travel agent partners in selling cruises and learning more is increasing. We had a very busy and successful CLIA Conference in May and we’ve added lots of hybrid events, such as webinars, virtual ship tours and so on.

Agents want to engage and absorb information. From a CLIA perspective, this all runs hand-in-hand with the work that the cruise lines have been doing and their support for the trade.

There’s clearly an appetite from holidaymakers to try a cruise for the first time or at least to look at it as a choice for their holiday.

There are many agents selling cruise for the first time, how are you engaging with them?

I think we have a responsibility to showcase all of the elements of the industry.

For example, we’re talking a lot more about expedition cruising, recognising the new expedition ships and the opportunities for agents to sell expeditions for the first time. We also continue to talk about river because this is a growing sector.

It’s our responsibility to showcase all of the different options and that makes for great content for conferences and our webinars.

It is an opportunity for us to talk about some of these amazing holiday choices that people can make and that appeals to a wider range of travel agents, some of whom may not have sold cruise in the past.

How might Cruise Week evolve in the future?

We have to review and reflect and get feedback from our travel agent partners. We’ll also do that with our cruise line partners to find out their ideas and thoughts.

There’s always a challenge in terms of duration of this type of promotional educational piece, because what you don’t want to do is talk about it for too long and people move on to the next thing – we want people to engage with it.

The 2024 CLIA Conference sold out in 48 hours – what are your thoughts on that?

It’s phenomenal and it reflects the interest that agents have in learning more. Already the numbers are higher than last year and it’s a sign that the trade has embraced cruise.

We’re seeing it across all of the events that we run – there has been unprecedented demand.

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