Tourism executives discuss the changing role of the travel agent at Cruise3sixty.// © 2012 CLIA
One of the most prominent messages at this year’s Cruise3sixty trade show, which took place April 25-30 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was the need for the industry to define the role of the travel agent and to promote the travel industry as a whole. Industry executives from CLIA, the U.S. Travel Association and ASTA all commented on the ongoing transformation of the tourism industry and the changing perception of travel agents.
“The role of the travel agent has been evolving,” said ASTA CEO Tony Gonchar. “Shifts in technology have changed the industry, and consumers are fleeing to agents because they want a ‘return on experience.’”
Cruise line executives were also on hand to comment on the state of the industry after the Costa Concordia tragedy. Overall, the message was a positive one.
“The return of clients to the marketplace after Concordia was quick despite the fact that there was a halt to all advertising,” said Rick Sasso, president and CEO of MSC Cruises. “Now, it’s business as usual.”
Dan Hanrahan, president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises noted that the first and fourth quarters of 2012 were ahead for bookings.
“I think there is some pent-up demand,” said Hanrahan. “We need to figure out how to get it back.”
According to Bob Lepisto, president of Sea Dream Yacht Club, there is still inventory, but it’s going to be a good year.
“A lot of affluent people are sitting on their wallets,” said Lepisto. “But consumers are seeing positive portfolio growth and are coming back. There is still value.”
In addition to an update on the state of the industry, agents learned about new ship offerings, participated in ship inspections and attended numerous workshops and seminars to further their expertise.