Comment: Collaboration is key to success

Iain Baillie, vice-president of international sales at Carnival Cruise Line, says now is the time to ensure momentum continues to make 2024 a record-breaking year

Demand for cruise has never been greater. That’s not some glib remark: Clia recently revealed that passengers from the UK and Ireland took 2.3 million cruise holidays last year – surpassing the highest previous annual number and up from 1.7 million in 2022.

The figures tell us many things, with one of the foremost being that cruise is cutting through to a greater extent than ever before. New ships, on-board innovation and immersive itineraries entice both repeat customers and a yet-to-cruise audience.

This doesn’t happen by chance. Travel is hugely competitive and to encourage more people to take a holiday at sea requires creative thinking and plenty of hard work from everyone across the industry – not least travel agents.

The trade has been fundamental in pushing the sector to new heights, driving interest among the general public and enabling cruise to tap into new markets, such as multi-generational travel. This is why it’s key for cruise lines to double-down on their trade engagement and work in tandem with agents.

Every line of course has their own ways of working. At Carnival Cruise Line, we’ve started 2024 with a clear vision of boosting our trade support functions, including updating GoCCL Navigator, our online travel agent booking platform. It now features a fresh design and enhanced offer details, as well as a side-by-side comparison that breaks down prices and benefits more seamlessly.

And none of us should underestimate the power of in-person interaction. Our Fun Ambassadors programme comprises 11 hand-picked partners who will work with us throughout the year to provide advice, ideas and feedback on how we collaborate with the trade.

Of course, cruise line fleets are also rapidly expanding. It’s felt like a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-type scenario in recent times, with launch announcements and maiden voyages aplenty. As for 2024, Clia has also revealed that more than 300 ships are set to sail this year, the first time the global Clia member fleet has surpassed this number, with overall capacity up by 3.6%.

Such growth is excellent to see – and us as cruise lines and the trade will need to continue to collaborate and work as one to meet the challenge of filling the extra spaces. New ships often provide the hook for agents to entice clients and, from a Carnival perspective, we’ve recently launched Carnival Jubilee and welcomed Carnival Firenze, the second ship to transfer from our sister line Costa Cruises. We’ll also have two new Excel-class ships joining the fleet, in 2027 and 2028.

The industry is rightly celebrating recent successes and now is the time to ensure the momentum continues and that every year becomes a record-breaking one.

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