It was fantastic to witness such a positive atmosphere at the Clia UK Selling Cruise Conference in Southampton last week, and Travel Weekly was proud to once again be official trade media partner.

Some may say that cruise gets a disproportionate amount of coverage given its share of the overall market, but the fact remains that the sector’s distribution model means it still offers a tremendous opportunity for agents – and is therefore of particular interest to a trade magazine such as ours.

While the mood was undeniably upbeat amid announcements of massive investment from the likes of MSC Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line, it would be naive to think that there are no challenges facing the industry.

Passenger growth is certainly one point of focus. And the lines are also 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.

One of the main messages was the old mantra of matching the right cruise to the right customer. And that will become even more important to ensure the crucial new-to-cruise customer doesn’t end up as a ‘one and done’, to coin a phrase used by Gerard Tempest, chief commercial officer of Carnival UK, referring to those who are put on the wrong ship, hate it, never come back – and, worse still, bad-mouth it to their friends.

The key is to ensure potential customers know not just what a cruise can offer, but also that it isn’t a one-size-fits-all experience. And that’s exactly where excellent expert travel agents come to the fore