The 2014 “State of the Cruise Industry” report by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) reveals encouraging growth from the Millennial generation and in niches like group and river cruising. We spoke with CLIA President and CEO Christine Duffy about these markets and how planners can work with them.
PREVUE: There was a lot of good news in the CLIA report.
Christine Duffy: Certainly the industry has faced a number of challenges in the past two years, and so coming into 2014 I think we’re cautiously optimistic. … I think there’s positive news that Millennials are continuing to make up a big part of first-time cruisers, and we see the reinforcement of trends in multigenerational travel.
What are Millennials looking for in their vacation?
I think you’ll see that there are some people who are attracted based on all of the things that they can experience on the ship itself. We’ve got a lot more active things that Millennials can participate in, whether it’s rock climbing or zip-lining, or spa, fitness, entertainment, trendy food and celebrity chefs on ships … And then, at the same time, I think they are a group of people who are very attracted by the unique kinds of destinations that you can actually experience and visit on a single cruise.
Why do you think group cruising has become so popular as an option?
It’s the ability to really interact with people you have something in common with …. They have something they’re passionate about that they get to experience in a unique way on a ship. And the same on the corporate side. We believe there’s great opportunity for corporate events and incentives to get people onto a ship to experience it.
It looks like a large number of the new ships launching in 2014 are river cruise ships.
It is the fastest-growing segment of the cruise industry. I think it’s quite popular for people who are avid cruisers already. We see the demographic for river cruises skew much more to the Boomers, who really like the idea of the ships – not so much the destination, but the ability to walk off each day into a different community on the river. … It’s a great option for corporate events or programs where you can, as on the ocean, charter a ship and make it your own.
How can meeting planners create a great all-around experience for groups at sea?
I think that’s one of the beauties of cruise for corporate events, for the ability to take over a ship and brand it with your signage and your messaging that you play up with that audience that is there all together …. It really gives a big advantage in terms of the face time that corporate executives can spend with their customers, versus if you’re together at a hotel or resort where people come together for a meal or a reception but then they scatter. On a cruise ship, you really create a very unique community for the time that you’re on the ship.
What is CLIA doing to help meeting planners work with these markets?
At CLIA we are continuing to engage with meeting professionals. We have certification and training that we provide for meeting and incentive professionals to help them better understand and learn how you leverage and use a cruise experience as a big motivator to draw your audience for that top incentive award or for that event that you may be hosting for your top customers.