Cruise companies must do all that they can to ensure that first-time passengers don’t end up falling into the ‘one and done’ category.
That was one of the main messages to come out of the recent CLIA UK gathering in Southampton, with Travel Weekly reporting that the industry was also told to continue focusing on passenger growth.
While the mood was upbeat, the business of cruising demands that these lines are always looking at the future of the industry. And according to the experts, it will become increasingly important in the future to ensure that new repeat customers are being created.
“The lines are desperate to ensure that new capacity and competitive pricing don’t have a negative impact on yields which, for many, are already much lower than they would like,” the news company stated.
And when it comes to convincing first-time passengers to become repeat customers, the conference heard that the key is to make it clear to them just how diverse a cruise can be.
The Leeds Metropolitan University report claims cruise lines are failing at corporate responsibility to staff and the environment.
The report, published in the latest issue of the journal Tourism Management, claims that the cruise industry is failing to provide meaningful data over what is it doing to minimise impact to the environment.
Clia said it found the report “deeply disappointing”. The study analyses the “industry’s lack of corporate social disclosure and ranks companies through analysis of their corporate social responsibility reports and websites to provide the first cruise sector sustainability reporting index.”
It claims 65% of the 80 cruise companies investigated did not mention corporate social responsibility on their websites and that only 12 brands publish corporate social reports.
Clia said: “The cruise industry is highly regulated on an international basis to exacting standards towards both the environment and labour welfare.
“We find the Leeds Metropolitan report deeply disappointing as it is seriously flawed with inaccuracies and subjective commentary which fly in the face of the facts of the achievements that the cruise industry delivers throughout the world.
“In both areas we go above and beyond those high thresholds to enable our 21 million annual global customers to enjoy the seas in which they cruise and be cared for and looked after by a motivated and content workforce.
“We put great store into our social responsibilities and we make an enormously positive impact on national economies all around the world, to the tune of €37.9 billion a year in Europe.”
The report also questioned whether enough was being done to protect marine ecosystems and claimed there was limited public data to “sustain the claim that cruise industry contributed to the economy by creating jobs and contributing to the local economy of the destinations visited.”
Dr Xavier Font, the lead author of the study, explained: “Most companies report soft data, such as statements from their CEOs, that are easy to copy and do not show real change.
“Companies mostly report on their corporate vision and strategy, their credentials and their governance and management systems, but they fail to report on actual performance data on many key environmental and socio-economic indicators.
“Reporting on emissions, effluents, waste or water is the result of eco-saving strategies and regulatory pressure.
“But not one of the 80 companies reports on the sustainability of the resources consumed or biodiversity actions, and few disclose their positive social or economic impact on destinations.”
Clia highlighted that cruise lines invest in technology to reduce the impact to the environment, that the industry has adopted voluntary standards to govern the discharge of wastewater, and that the industry is in full compliance with international and regional rules on air emissions.
Big Interview: Clia president Chistine Duffy
As someone who started her career as a travel agent in Philadelphia, Christine Duffy understands what agents need to do their jobs.
She appreciates the level of information and training agents need to make a sale and is aware of the demands they face.
And although Clia already provides support for thousands of agents around the world, one of Duffy’s main aims is to reach an even greater audience of members.
It’s been a tough couple of years for the cruise industry. But Duffy said the Costa Concordia tragedy highlighted the importance of arming agents with information necessary to handle enquiries.
“Since the tragedy of Costa Concordia many questions were raised by consumers and the trade about what the industry does to ensure the safety and security of passengers,” she said.
“It is something that was definitely brought home following Concordia and other issues that we have had this year.
“Communicating is something that we have always done, but we need to do it more. We can’t just do it when there is a crisis or an issue. Agents are on the frontline and we want to make sure they have the details they need so they can be responsive to customers.”
Many would assume that since becoming a global association earlier this year, Clia has become completely united on methods of working and the messages to be highlighted to agents.
But Duffy said this wasn’t the case, and that each association across Clia’s global network had particular issues.
“We are careful to make sure all the things that are important and unique in each area don’t change,” she said.
“We understand that each has its own issues, challenges and ways of working.
“The UK is a very strong and mature market, but there is always potential for further growth around the world.”
Duffy’s appearance at Clia UK & Ireland’s Columbus Day on September 19 will be warmly welcomed by the trade, many of whom are keen to hear her thoughts on the global cruise industry and the challenges ahead.
Duffy said issues including price, value and the perception of cruising were top of the list.
“The value of cruise is currently one of its biggest attributes – we have been able to offer great value for money,” she said.
“There is a great opportunity as we generate greater demand to see that price develop. The price is lower than what we would like.
“We need to work on that by promoting the value and the price of cruising. And to really help the industry, we need to ensure the trade has what it needs.”
Duffy also believes the industry as a whole needs to ensure cruise lines inform agents about their environmental investment and the impact they have in destinations.
She said those details weren’t relayed to agents frequently enough, and increasing this communication could result in growth in the new-to-cruise market.
She added: “We always represent the industry in the policy-making arena, with ongoing education on the important issues such as the cruise industry as a global corporate citizen, the impact on ports, and the environmental investment our industry is making to improve our ships.
“Many of these things have not been communicated frequently enough to the trade and agents.”
Clia has more than 14,000 members, but as the industry grows, Clia follows suit. It plans to expand further into Europe, with
Clia Italy and Clia Spain set to open within the year. Duffy’s long-term strategy is to expand in the east and she is looking to see what support agents would need in the emerging Asian cruise market.