Cruise industry must do more to boost numbers, Clia chairman says

Cruise industry must do more to boost numbers, Clia chairman saysThe cruise industry is not doing a good enough job to drive forward the number of Brits taking a cruise, Clia UK and Ireland chairman Jo Rzymowska has told cruise lines.

Speaking at the Clia UK and Ireland AGM on Friday, the Celebrity Cruises boss said the industry needed to get across the array of variety offered on cruise ships – compared to what is offered by land-based holidays.

She said that while the UK was leading the way in Europe in terms of the number of people taking a cruise, numbers hadn’t risen as much as hoped.

“Just under 22 million people every year are cruising with us (globally) – that has doubled over the last decade, which is significant,” she said.

“And in the UK we are still leading the way from a European point of view with 6 million cruises and just over 1.7 million of those from the UK. However, that has remained fairly static as we know for the last couple years.

“We are leading the way, but there is a country snapping at our heels – the Germans. It’s up to us collectively to not let that happen.”

Rzymowska said land-based holidays didn’t offer the same variety as cruises, and that ocean and river vessels offer great access to destinations, a better and more consistent level of customer service, and more choice to suit all needs.

She added: “Land-based holidays don’t offer these to the extent we do, but still only 1.7 million Brits take a cruise. Quite frankly, as an industry we are not doing a good enough job and we need to do a far better job than we are today.”

Clia UK and Ireland’s three working groups – PR, consumer engagement and trade engagement – have been coming up with great ideas on how to take the industry forward, according to Rzymowska.

Globally 95% of the cruise capacity is a member of Clia, with 61 cruise lines. In the UK, US and Australia, Clia works with more than 50,000 agents and Rzymowska said Andy Harmer’s team in the UK was leading the way.

“Our aim is to talk to agents even better and more effectively than we are today. The UK and Ireland, under Andy’s leadership, is leading the way in doing that.”

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P&O Cruises beats record with Britannia bookings

P&O Cruises beats record with Britannia bookings

Chris Truscott, sales and distribution support director, said there had been massive demand despite issues with the system which caused problems for agents and customers attempting to make bookings.

He said: “We were having problems with our systems the night before, and then they went down on the morning as we opened to bookings. It was a combination of problems with the system and bad timing, being the first day of bookings.”

Truscott said bookings showed a 24% increase on the best ever ship launch for Ventura, and that the “vast, vast majority of bookings made been made by agents.”

He said the systems went down and then eventually P&O was able to take bookings through its contact centre which is normally open to just consumers but was available to agents during the system failure.

He said agents made bookings through his method and then by 10.30 both systems were back up and running.

“It was a great success with really phenomenal demand,” he added. “And that is down to the way we have been working with agents.”

Truscott added: “We really appreciate the patience shown yesterday by our trade partners in the early part of yesterday when due to circumstances beyond our control they experienced difficulties making bookings with us. I can only apologise for the disruption caused and emphasise that we took immediate action to resolve the issues.

“However, I am delighted with the support agents have shown to our fantastic new ship which is demonstrated by the unprecedented demand. Britannia will display the very best of British in terms of design, dining and innate attention to detail in all areas. We can’t wait for the opportunity to show off Britannia to agents in just under a year’s time when the ship arrives in Southampton.”

Cruise lines spot ‘opportunity’ after pension reform in Budget

Cruise lines spot 'opportunity' after pension reform in BudgetCruise lines are confident last week’s pension reforms announced in the Budget will prompt a boom for cruises.

The proposed changes will free up pensioners’ cash earlier in their retirement. While one minister’s suggestion that newly retired people might blow it on fast cars made headlines, commentators predicted they were likely to book that dream trip.

Cruise lines were careful not to suggest they would actively encourage pensioners to spend their money unwisely, but they are expecting to benefit.

Nathan Philpot, sales and marketing director at Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, said: “Traditionally, retirees have downsized their homes to provide additional funds. These proposed changes will empower those qualified to rethink how they spend their savings.”

Mike Bonner, UK general manager at Silversea Cruises, said: “For our target demographic it’s got to be an opportunity.”

Azamara Club Cruises commercial director David Duff added: “It can only be a good thing for a business like ourselves if people get more access to their pension. I would like to think it’s an opportunity, but we have to be responsible about it.”

Hopes that pension changes would spur demand came as Clia UK & Ireland announced its latest figures, which showed the UK market grew by 25,000 passengers, or 1.5%, in 2013.

It also revealed the proportion of late bookings – those within three months of departure – was the highest for a decade at 40%.

However, Clia said there were signs of momentum returning to the industry with the deployment of P&O Cruises’ Britannia, Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas and Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess from Southampton in 2015.

Clia director Andy Harmer said: “The industry’s continued confidence in the UK market is demonstrated by the increasing number of ships that will sail from British ports.”