By Andy Harmer, director, Clia UK & Ireland

Last week we held our seventh, and most successful, Selling Cruise Conference, with 458 delegates joining us in Southampton.

We chose the theme ‘Think Ahead’ to reflect that we are in an ever-changing world. New technology and rapid social change is shifting consumer demand faster now than at any time in our history.

A stellar line-up of speakers spoke passionately about the huge importance of taking the potential cruise customer on a sales ‘journey’.

Speakers from Azamara Club Cruises, Hurtigruten and Tauck River Cruises emphasised the need to talk customers through the varied, and often unique, emotional and physical experiences that a cruise holiday brings, both on board and ashore.

The conference was our first as Clia UK & Ireland. Thirteen cruise associations from around the world have formed an integrated organisation to serve as the voice of the industry – the Cruise Lines International Association (Clia).

We are incredibly proud to be part of Clia – a global association representing 60 cruise lines and 14,000 travel agents and agency members across the world.

Our industry is huge and continues to grow, bringing more than €2.2 billion worth of benefits to the UK economy each year.

The global Clia association has been created to provide increased benefits, expanded training and more effective coordination and communication, particularly to the travel agent community.

Our goal is to demonstrate to travellers not only that they should choose a cruise holiday, but that they should book with a Clia-accredited travel agent.

We are focused on helping agents increase the size of the cruise market in Great Britain and Ireland and we will do this by concentrating on consumer campaigns and PR, and by offering enhanced online training through our Academy and unique events.

I was delighted to announce at the conference that Clia UK & Ireland has just become the first organisation to be recognised for the excellent standard of its agent cruise training by the UK’s leading awards company in vocational education, City & Guilds.

To achieve this recognition, we had to demonstrate a commitment to training as well as excellence in development, delivery, assessment and support to our travel agent members.

So, many thanks to our agents for undertaking the training programmes and gaining the knowledge and expertise to act as our leading advocates when it comes to selling the ultimate holiday experience.

In these ever-changing times it is more important than ever to work cohesively as an industry, to come together at events such as the Selling Cruise Conference and to jointly educate holidaymakers in the fantastic experiences cruising offers.

And as the new chairman of Clia UK & Ireland, Jo Rzymowska, said in her presentation, “there’s a cruise for everyone, they just don’t know it yet”.