New Clia chair plans ‘exciting agenda’ for agents

The new chair of cruise body Clia UK and Ireland is planning an “exciting agenda” to help agents seize opportunities as the sector returns to business.

Ben Bouldin, Royal Caribbean Cruises’ vice-president for Europe, Middle East and Africa, was announced on Monday as the successor of Tony Roberts, Princess Cruises’ UK and Europe vice-president, who has been in the post for three years.

Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, he said he has always been a “big fan” of the trade and knows what an important role agents can play with the resumption of cruises.

He pointed out how much has changed since the start of the pandemic and his aim as chair is to support the team at Clia to navigate the new landscape.

“The dynamic and the fabric of the travel agency world has changed,” he said.

“The people working in retail today are probably very different to some of the people that are working there in 2019.

“We’ve got this explosion of homeworking. We’ve got the introduction of brands like Inteletravel coming in, and we’ve got expansion of Travel Counsellors, and we’ve got lots of online cruise specialists who have had to evolve through this pandemic.

“As an industry, we’ve really got to get our heads around: what does the distribution look like moving forward? And how do we best support it?

“I’m not short of ideas.

“My ambition is to really help Andy and the Clia exec create the most evolving and exciting agenda for the travel trade.”

MoreCruise industry ‘can surpass 2019 numbers next year’

He said the Clia’s calendar is “very successful and extremely popular” but he can add to the line-up and plan for more live events.

“We’ve done a pretty good job in the virtual world [but] it’s not the same as those physical points where you can come together and collaborate and enjoy laughter and share experiences and have fun – we’ve got to bring the excitement and the feelgood factor back to the industry on steroids,” he told the webcast.

Andy Harmer, Clia’s UK and Ireland managing director, highlighted the work that the association done during the Covid crisis, such as virtual events, webinars, training and a new website.

Clia has also announced an in-person Selling Cruise Day in Southampton on November 4, with panel sessions featuring cruise experts.

Harmer added: “We’re very excited about the opportunities that lay ahead to bring people together in person.

“We have got new live events coming up in that second half of the year that we’ll be announcing soon.

“Our focus is very much on supporting our travel agent partners.”

He said Clia’s executive committee of senior executives from across the cruise industry bring “a lot of insights, inspiration, ideas”.

“The job of the chair and the executive committee is to really make sure that we’re razor focused on putting our support for the industry in the right place,” he added.

Bouldin joined the cruise sector seven years ago from the FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) market and said he has been welcomed since day one.

“I have genuinely loved this industry. It’s such a people industry…it’s a family feel at times,” he told the webcast.

“The resilience of this industry is incredible and it will prove itself to the world as it comes through this over the next few months.

“I was extremely proud to have the chance to stand as the chair for Clia.”

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