The leader of cruising’s global trade body outlines the challenges facing the sector ahead of her speech at Clia UK’s Columbus Day. Hollie-Rae Merrick reports

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.